What are people’s beliefs of mental illness?
The general public are often wrong about mental illness and this leads to stigmatisation of people who suffer from mental illnesses. The present study aimed to explore what are people’s beliefs of mental illness and so a semi-structured interview was performed on one participant. The data obtained from this study was analysed by Interpretive Phonological Analysis (IPA), which produced a number of themes. These themes are discussed in relation to previous research on this subject. It is concluded that the general public has a poor knowledge of mental illness and this certainly does lead to stigmatisation but it is argued that if the general public is made more aware of mental illness then they would better understand and would be better able to help those with mental illnesses.
The general findings of research in this subject is that the general public have a good knowledge of physical illness but a very poor or limited knowledge of mental illness (Jorm, 2000). For example, Links et. al. (1999) conducted an experiment on 1444 respondents to a national survey, wherein they were given a description of a mental illness or someone with subclinical behaviour. It was found that the general public could identify depression and schizophrenia but their knowledge of other illnesses was limited and this led them to be fearful of people with a mental illness.
It has been found that people who suffer from mental illnesses are faced with stigmatism and fear from the general public (Rusch, Angermeyer & Corrigan, 2005). Rusch, Angermeyer and Corrigan (2005) conducted a review study that aimed to examine the general public’s knowledge of mental illness and the subsequent stigma attached to people with mental illnesses. It was found that people with mental illnesses tend to suffer from stigma from others and self-stigma and that the fear of stigma due to their mental illness is a barrier that prevents people from seeking the help they need. A review study is a useful means by which a large amount of quantitative data can be gathered together quickly and analysed objectively so as to produce a more holistic and more useful understanding of the subject matter. Therefore, it can be seen that the general public has many misconceptions of mental illness and that this can lead to stigma and social isolation.
The investigation of young people’s beliefs of mental illness has been poorly researched (Armstrong, Hill & Secker, 2000; Secker, Armstrong & Hill, 1999). However, Armstrong, Hill and Secker (2000) conducted a study consisting of focus groups and individual interviews that found the young people may have a better understanding of mental illness than an older generation due to popular culture and the media but that this is still limited and can lead to fear and stigmatisation of people with mental illnesses. These findings were supported by previous work by Secker, Armstrong and Hill (1999), adding external reliability and predictive validity to these findings.
The aim of the present study was to examine what are people’s beliefs or approaches to mental illness. As it can be seen that the research on this subject is limited and somewhat contradictory, the research question for this study was to explore what are people’s beliefs of mental illness.
The sample for the present study consisted of one European male, who worked in a mental health hospital on a voluntary basis. The participant was recruited through a self-selecting opportunity sample. This particular participant was recruited as he had experience working and living with people with mental health problems.
A semi-structured interview was conducted that aimed to explore people’s beliefs of mental illness. At the beginning of the study, written consent was obtained from the participant (please refer to Appendix One for the consent form). In addition to this, the participant was made aware of all his rights, including his right to withdraw from the interview at any point, as well as being assured of confidentiality. The subsequent interview was arranged in accordance to the participant’s wishes, including time and place. The interview began when the tape recorder was switched on and the interview lasted approximately an hour (please refer to Appendix Two for an example of the interview questions. Please refer to Appendix Three for the interview transcripts). At the end of the interview the participant was asked if they had anything further to add and then the interview ended when the tape recorder was switched off. At this point, the participant could ask any questions they may have had regarding to study before being thanked for their contribution.
The interview was transcript from the tape recording. The transcript notation was based on the notation devised by Jefferson (1984). The analysis of the transcript was performed using Interpretative Phonological Analysis (IPA), wherein the transcript was broken down into codes that were then grouped in subordinate themes before being clustered with similar themes to create superordinate themes relating to the text and the research question (Smith & Osborn, 2003; Parker, 2005; Silverman, 2005; Smith, 2008; Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009).
As mentioned in the above section, the interview transcripts were analysed through IPA procedures and this produced a series of themes (please refer to Appendix Four for the annotated interview transcript). These themes were as follows:
You should produce around two to four themes. List each individual theme and provide a selection of quotations to support the idea of the theme. I would suggest three or four quotations for each theme. Quotes must be in quotation marks and must have the line numbers after the quote in brackets.
The aim of the present study was to examine what are people’s beliefs or approaches to mental illness. Previous research on this subject is limited and somewhat contradictory, but suggests that the general public has little knowledge of mental illness (Armstrong, Hill & Secker, 2000; Jorm, 2000; Rusch, Angermeyer & Corrigan, 2005; Secker, Armstrong & Hill, 1999). As such, the research question for this study was to explore what are people’s beliefs of mental illness.
The next paragraph or few paragraphs needs to relate the findings of the study, mentioned in the ANALYSIS section, to the previous research highlighted in the INTRODUCTION. No new information or sources should be added here. Reference should be made to whether the results of this study support or refute the findings of past studies and then provide an explanation for your findings.
The following section will provide the reader with the strengths and weaknesses of the present study so as to present a more accurate picture of the research so that future research can build upon this study.
A criticism of this study is that of the sample size used. As only one participant was sampled in this study the sample representation of the present research will have been limited and so the generalisability of the findings and the usefulness will also have been low. An improvement for this study would be to conduct interview on a larger, more representative sample of people, including women.
A strength of this study is that of the rapport built up between the interviewer and the participant. This excellent rapport resulted in the participant being able to response in a truthful manner due to the fact that the interviewer had created a more comfortable, open atmosphere that allowed for more detailed responses to be given. This may explain why the interview lasted almost an hour and it can explain the amount of detailed information that was obtained from the participant.
An interview study, such as the one performed in this piece of research, can suffer from poor reliability and validity due to the form of research method it is (Parker, 2005). As such, a way to improve the quality of this piece of research is to present a critically reflexive account of the study that provides the reader with a more informed perspective, contextualising the study (Smith & Osborn, 2003; Parker, 2005; Silverman, 2005; Smith, 2008; Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). This is a subject that is very close to my heart both professionally or privately, as it is a subject area I wish to enter into on the completion of my education. It is for this reason that I conducted this study, as I wished to gain a greater knowledge of mental illness. It is hoped that this reflexive account has provided the reader with a greater understanding of the study.
In conclusion, from the findings of this report it can be said that the general public has a poor knowledge of mental illness compared to that of their knowledge of physical illness. This lack of knowledge leads to stigmatisation, fear of the unknown and social distance, which no doubt influences the lives of those who suffer from mental illness. Further research is needed in order to further investigate the ways in which stigma influences people who suffer from mental illness. If the general public is made more aware of mental illness then they would better understand and would be better able to help those with mental illnesses.
Armstrong, C., Hill, M. & Secker, J. (2000). Young people’s perceptions of mental health. Children & Society, 14(1): 60-72.
Jefferson, G. (1984). Caricature versus Detail: On Capturing the Particulars of Pronunciation in Transcripts of Conversational Data. Tilberg Papers on Language and Literature, 31, Netherlands: University of Tilberg.
Jorm, A. F. (2000). Mental health literacy: Public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 177: 396-401.
Link, B. G., Phelan, J. C., Bresnahan, M., Stueve, A. & Pescosdido, B. A. (1999). Public conceptions of mental illness: labels, causes, dangerousness, and social distance. American Journal of Public Health, 89(9): 1328-1333.
Parker, I (2005) Qualitative psychology: introducing radical research. Maidenhead, England.
Rusch, N., Angermeyer, M. & Corrigan, P. (2005). Mental illness stigma: Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma. European Psychiatry, 20(8): 529-539.#
Secker, J., Armstrong, C. & Hill, M. (1999). Young people’s understanding of mental illness. Health Edu Res, 14(6): 729-739.
Silverman, D. (2005). Doing Qualitative Research (2nd Edition). London: Sage.
Smith, J.A. (Ed.) (2008). Qualitative psychology (2nd ed.). London: Sage.
Smith, J. A., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London: Sage.
Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2003). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp. 51-80). London: Sage.
Appendix One: Consent Form.
Appendix Two: Example of Interview Questions.
Appendix Three: Interview Transcript.
Appendix Four: Annotated Interview Transcript.