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Stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness among primary school children in Kenya

Abstract

Background

Literature describing stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental illness by children in the developing world is lacking. Children’s mental health issues in the Kenyan context are especially pertinent due to the increased likelihood of exposure to risk factors and the high prevalence of mental disorders. The objective of the current study was to examine socio-demographic factors associated with the endorsement of stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental illness among Kenyan school children.

Methods

We analyzed cross-sectional survey data from 4585 primary school-aged children in standards one through seven in the Eastern Province of Kenya. We examined relationships between the endorsement of stigmatizing attitudes and age, gender, district, religion, being in the standard appropriate for one’s age, and parental employment status.

Results

Stigma scores decreased with increasing age (β = −0.83; 95 % CI = −0.99 to −0.67). Boys had higher stigma scores compared to girls (β = 1.55; 95 % CI = 0.86–2.24). Students from the rural district had higher average stigma scores as compared to those from the peri-urban district (β = 1.14; 95 % CI = 0.44–1.84). Students who were not in the standard appropriate for their age had lower stigma scores than those who were in the standard typical for their age (β = −1.60; 95 % CI = −2.43 to −0.77).

Conclusions

Stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill exist among primary school children in Kenya; thus, anti-stigma interventions are needed, and our findings highlight particular subgroups that could be targeted.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by a grant from Grand Challenges Canada (#0083-04) and was supported by the Africa Mental Health Foundation. Kelly Anderson is supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (#274885). The authors have no conflicts of interest with respect to the publication of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kwame McKenzie.

Appendix

Appendix

Ten items from the stereotype agreement subscale, taken from the Self-Stigma of Mental Illness Scale developed by Corrigan et al. [28].

  1. 1.

    Most persons with mental illness are to blame for their problems.

  2. 2.

    Most persons with mental illness are unpredictable (you cannot tell what they will do next).

  3. 3.

    Most persons with mental illness will not recover or get better.

  4. 4.

    Most persons with mental illness are unable to get or keep a regular job.

  5. 5.

    Most persons with mental illness are dirty and unkept (untidy).

  6. 6.

    Most persons with mental illness are dangerous/harmful to self and others.

  7. 7.

    Most persons with mental illness cannot be trusted.

  8. 8.

    Most persons with mental illness are below average in intelligence.

  9. 9.

    Most persons with mental illness are unable to take care of themselves.

  10. 10.

    Most persons with mental illness are disgusting.

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Ndetei, D.M., Mutiso, V., Maraj, A. et al. Stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness among primary school children in Kenya. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 51, 73–80 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-015-1090-6

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Keywords

  • Mental illness stigma
  • Child mental health
  • Kenya