Attitudes towards mental illness, mentally ill people and deinstitutionalisation.
The aim of this study was to assess the attitudes of community psychiatric nurses, mental health professionals and primary health care nurses towards mental illness, mentally ill people and deinstitutionalisation. The sample of this study comprised 38 community psychiatric nurses, 20 mental health professionals and 55 primary health care nurses, all of whom were from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and their surrounding areas. Each participant completed a biographical questionnaire, the Opinions of Mental Illness scale (1962) and the Community Mental Health Ideology scale (1967). Four focus groups on attitudes towards deinstitutionalisation, comprising 25 participants in total, were also conducted. Statistical analyses were computed using the Statistical Programme for Social Scientists. Krueger's (1984) methodology was employed to analyse the focus groups results. The quantitative results revealed that community psychiatric nurses, mental health professionals and primary health care nurses generally tended to express neutral attitudes towards mental illness, mentally ill people and deinstitutionalisation. Significant differences in attitudes towards mental illness and mentally ill people were found amongst respondents in different categories of race, educational levels and treatment of a friend for a mental illness. The focus groups results revealed that while the community psychiatric nurses and mental health professionals were positive about the concept of deinstitutionalisation, they did not favour it's implementation within the current South African economic and social contexts. Based on their fear of mentally ill patients, the primary health care nurses displayed negative attitudes towards the concept of deinstitutionalisation and were also cautious about it's implementation within the current South African context. Implications and recommendations arising from this study are discussed.