The Knowledge of and Attitude to and Beliefs about Causes and Treatments of Mental Illness in Eritrea: Examining Perceptions of 90 University of Asmara Students Regarding Mental Illness

Dr. Yemane Desta (PhD)

Department of Public Administration, College of Business and Social Sciences, University of Asmara, P.O.BOX 1220, Asmara, Eritrea

Corresponding Author E-mail: yemane008@gmail.com; Telephone Number: 291-7645753

Accepted 25 November 2020

Citation: Yemane D (2021). The Knowledge of and Attitude to and Beliefs about Causes and Treatments of Mental Illness in Eritrea:  Examining Perceptions of 90 University of Asmara Students Regarding Mental Illness. International Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology Research, 7(2): 221-229.

Copyright: © 2021 Yemane D. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness are a common occurrence in the Sub-Saharan region including Eritrea.   Numerous studies from Sub-Saharan Africa suggest that stigma and discrimination are major problems in the community, with negative attitudes and behavior towards people with mental illness being widespread.    In order to assess the whether such negative attitudes persist in the context of Eritrea this study explored the knowledge and perceptions of 90 Eritrean university students at the College of Business and Economics, the University of Asmara regarding the causes and remedies of mental illness   A qualitative method involving coded self-administered questionnaires administered to a sample of 90 university students to collecting data at the end of 2019.  The survey evidence points that almost 50% of the respondents had contact with a mentally ill person suggesting that the significant number of the respondents experienced a first-hand encounter and knowledge of mental illness in their family and community.  The findings show an overall greater science-based understanding of the causes of mental illness to be followed by recommended psychiatric treatments.    The survey evidence indicates that the top three leading causes of mental illness in the context of Eritrea according to the respondents are brain disease (76%), bad events in the life of the mentally ill person (66%) and substance abuse or alcohol taking, smoking, taking drugs like hashish. (54%).     The majority of the respondents have a very sympathetic and positive outlook towards mentally ill persons suggesting that mentally illness does not simply affect a chosen individual rather it can happen to anybody regardless of economic class, social status, ethnicity race and religion.    Medical interventions cited by the majority of the respondents as being effective treatments for mental illness centered on the idea that hospitals and clinics   for treatment and even cures for psychiatric disease.  Changing perceptions of mental illnesses in Eritrea that paralleled the very caring and sympathetic attitudes of the sample university students would require raising public awareness regarding mental illness through education, using the mass media to raise public awareness, integrating mental health into the primary health care system, decentralizing mental health care services to increase access to treatment and providing affordable service to maintain positive treatment outcomes.

Keywords:  discrimination, Eritrea, mental illness, mental health, Sub-Saharan Africa, stigma, university students

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