The stigma of mental illness: A mixed methods study in a rural area of Austria.  

Jenull B., Salem I., Brunner E.
First author's affiliation: Alps-Adria University, Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria

Psychiatric reforms have reduced the number and length of in-patient treatment and improved community services for persons with mental illness. In order to provide mental health care in best possible proximity to their homes, transparency of offered services and rapid access to mobile social services are needed. We combined qualitative and quantitative methods to reach comprehensive and practically relevant findings from the perspectives of the user group, their family members and the mental health care professionals (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). The user group and their family members (n = 83) were surveyed regarding their individual situation, current strains, experienced stigmatisation and level of social support. Furthermore, we interviewed experts in the community service (N = 44). Results show that an essential amount of mental health care is delivered by primary care physicians. As far as networking and training needs are concerned, the experts showed significant differences in opinions. Whilst staff of mobile services and social facilities located serious flaws, general practitioners did not see any need for action. Beside difficulties in accessibility and low availability of mental health care services in the rural area, all three target groups considered the taboo topic of stigmatisation as one of the main problems in the district. People with mental disorders are less likely to receive necessary care due to the reported low acceptance and tolerance.