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Stigma still a stumbling block for people with mental illness

By Patrick Nelson

Dr Nektarios Alexi … “trusting relationship is necessary for help to be beneficial” Dr Nektarios Alexi … “trusting relationship is necessary for help to be beneficial”

A Charles Darwin University researcher has completed a novel investigation into what helps and what hinders people’s willingness to seek support in times of mental illness.

Nektarios Alexi said he analysed a set of socio-cultural factors based on data gathered from Cyprus, Greece and Australia during his recently completed PhD from CDU.

The results showed some commonalities and some contrasts.

“There was a greater tendency among people from the Greek Orthodox tradition to seek help from a priest, whereas those from an Anglo heritage were more likely to defer to a practitioner with a professionally recognised qualification,” Dr Alexi said.

But he said this depended on the type and severity of the condition.

“In extreme cases, such as psychosis, the preference of people in either culture was to seek professional medical advice.”

Dr Alexi said his research confirmed that the stigma associated with mental illness was a major impediment to people from either culture seeking help.

“Regardless of whether the preference was for a priest, a professional or a family member, an open and trusting relationship was necessary for any help to be beneficial.”

Dr Alexi said about 20 per cent of the population suffered from a mental illness at some stage, but too few sought help.

“Overall, the studies have provided insights into the relationships of socio-cultural factors and attitudes towards mental illness and help seeking attitudes.

“Not only do we need to reduce stigma toward mental illness and help-seeking, but we also need to increase more open attitudes.”