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An exploration of community attitudes towards people living with mental illnesses: a case of Inanda KwaZulu-Natal.

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The topic of mental health is one of the many topics that are neglected in many South African communities. Although this is a burning issue that affects millions of South Africans, little to nothing has been done to raise awareness regarding this phenomenon that society still grapples with among many other pandemics. Available literature suggests that the issue of mental illnesses is among the many issues that haven’t been given the necessary attention they deserve as a result of their magnitude and also the negative effects they have on many lives in our communities. Communities lack the necessary tools and services to tackle the problems associated with mental illnesses and the stigma thereof. People living with mental illnesses are continuously marginalised, violated and excluded from community programmes as a result of the stigma and negative attitudes associated with mental illnesses. This study was motivated by the fact that although mental illnesses are a huge concern for South African communities as they disrupt many lives and lead to death as many people have died by suicide as a result of mental illnesses and not being able to talk about them as a result of the negative stigma associated with mental illness, yet little has been done to provide communities, especially townships with mental health services. This study is geared towards exploring community attitudes towards people living with mental illnesses. The study was conducted at Durban Inanda, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Methodologically, the study employed a qualitative approach that involved semi-structured interviews conducted with twenty-six participants involved in the study. The study found that community members harbour negative attitudes towards those living with mental illnesses. This is a result of how people living with mental illnesses are depicted as violent, dangerous and not deserving of being treated with dignity. The study also showed that community members have false and misleading information regarding mental illness and those living with it. Another finding of the study was that the community lacked mental health services that can provide the community with the correct information regarding mental illnesses thus curbing the scourge of mental illness stigma as well as the associated repercussions. The study concludes that mental health service centres are a necessity in the community as they can play critical role in raising awareness regarding mental illness as well as facilitating programmes that can assist communities to better deal with issues related to mental illnesses without stigmatising and victimising those living with such illnesses.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.