Background: Stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness remain barriers to help seeking and full recovery for people in need of mental health services. Yet there is scarce research investigating the experiences of psychiatric stigma on mental health service users in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study was therefore to explore the experiences of psychiatric stigma by service users in order to inform interventions to reduce such stigma and discrimination in one LMIC, namely South Africa.Methods: Participants comprised a total of 77 adults aged above 18 years, made up of service providers including professional nurses (10), lay counsellors (20), auxiliary social workers (2); and service users (45).Results: Psychiatric stigma was found to be perpetuated by family members, friends, employers, community members and health care providers. Causes of psychiatric stigma identified included misconceptions about mental illness often leading to delays in help-seeking. Experiencing psychiatric stigma was reported to worsen the health of service users and impede their capacity to lead and recover a normal life.Conclusion: Media campaigns and interventions to reduce stigma should be designed to address specific stigmatizing behaviours among specific segments of the population. Counselling of families, caregivers and service users should include how to deal with experienced and internalized stigma.
- Health care service providers
- Mental health
- Psychiatric stigma and discrimination
- Service users