Culture and stigma towards mental illness: a comparison of general and psychiatric nurses of Chinese and Anglo-Australian backgrounds
AuthorKu, Tan Kan
AffiliationDepartment of Psychiatry (Centre for International Mental Health)
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
CitationsKu, T. K. (2007). Culture and stigma towards mental illness: a comparison of general and psychiatric nurses of Chinese and Anglo-Australian backgrounds. Masters Research thesis, Department of Psychiatry (Centre for International Mental Health), The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
Deposited with permission of the author. © 2007 Tan Kan Ku
A sample of 208 nurses (a response rate of 63%) participated in a study by responding to a questionnaire comprising of 170 items which examined nurses’ attitudes towards mental illness, and the association between contact, cultural values, general and practice stigma. General stigma refers to attitudes towards the mentally ill while practice stigma is informed from differential clinical practice approaches towards the care of two case vignettes describing a patient with mental illness and one with diabetes. Subjects were recruited using the snowballing technique and comprised of nurses (83 Anglo Psychiatric, 41 Anglo General, 49 Chinese Psychiatric and 35 Chinese General) currently practising in Victoria. Age ranged from 21 to 65 years. Principal components analyses were conducted on items to develop subscales related to individualism and collectivism, contact types, general and practice stigma. Analyses of variance and covariance were conducted to examine differences between nurse type and ethnicity and respectively, to account for possible differences in background, contact and in the case of practice stigma, general stigma. The key findings revealed differences according to nurse type and ethnicity in several of the subscales. Psychiatric nurses endorsed a higher level of contact than general nurses with mentally ill people on the variables ‘Contact Through Work Situation’, ‘Patient Help Nurses’ and ‘External Socialisation with Patient’, but not on the variable ‘Relative With Mental Illness’. By virtue of more contact, psychiatric nurses also endorsed less general stigma than general nurses, assessed by results from analysing social distancing, but not by negative stereotyping of people with mental illness. With respect to practice stigma, while care and satisfaction did not differ according to patient type and nurse type, psychiatric nurses expressed less authoritarianism and negativity than general nurses towards the mental illness case than general nurses while lesser differences between nurse types were evident for the diabetes case. Chinese nurses when compared with Anglo-Australian nurses, endorsed more highly collectivist values measured by the variables ‘Ingroup Interdependence’ and ‘Ingroup Role Concern’ but there was no difference in individualist values. This may reflect acculturation towards Western values but also retention of Chinese values, interpreted in the light of other results on cultural affiliation, as a bicultural position. Chinese nurses endorsed more highly general stigma towards the mentally ill than Anglo nurses when statistically controlling for differences in background demographics and contact factors. Nursing satisfaction did not differ in ethnicity and patient type. Chinese nurses endorsed more highly care and authoritarianism in their clinical practice approaches than Anglo-Australian nurses, although there was no significant interaction effect between ethnicity and patient type on care and authoritarianism. Chinese nurses endorsed more highly negativity than Anglo-Australian nurses for the mental illness case than the diabetes case, an effect later shown to be mediated by differences in general stigma between the two ethnic groups. Within the Chinese sample, higher contact was associated with lower differential negativity for the mental illness than the diabetes case. Several path analyses suggested Chinese values influenced differential negativity, mediated by general stigma and prior diversified contact with people having a mental illness. It may be concluded from these results that practice stigma is related to cultural values but the relationship is mediated by general stigma and contact. What aspect of the Chinese values specifically correlates with general stigma remains a question for further research, but several possibilities are discussed.
Keywordsattitudes towards mental illness; general stigma; practice stigma; cultural values; contact; Chinese and Anglo-Australian nurses; diabetes and mental illness
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