||This comparative study aimed to discover the principal factors that influence the
perceptions of citizens in Arica, Chile and Rome, Italy toward mental illness. Specifically,
the study aimed to investigate how these perceptions affect the societal acceptance
of mentally ill individuals and to identify potential sources of stigma.
In both cities, mental health services exist for free use by citizens, but stigma
makes the use of these services and the acceptance of those who use them somewhat
taboo. Past studies on the topic of mental health stigma have investigated the barriers
to accessing mental health services (Acuña & Bolis 2005), the inception and effects
of Basaglia’s Law (Tarabochia 2011), strategies to combat stigma (López et al. 2008)
and images of mental illness in the media (Stout, Villeagas & Jennings 2004).
To discover Aricans’ opinions on mental health and illness, personal interviews were
administered to five mental health professionals, and a 20-question survey was administered
to 131 members of the general population. In Rome, 27 subjects answered an 18-question
survey as well as an interview, and 12 professionals participated in narrative interviews.
From these interviews and surveys, the lack of economic, structural and human resources
to effectively manage mental health programs was gleaned. Moreover, many participants
identified how stigma infringed upon the human rights of those with mental illnesses
and opined that they were barely accepted in society.
Conclusions drawn were that stigma stems from multiple concurrent sources, and strategies
to reduce it must align with each society’s unique needs. Stigma prevents people from
caring for their mental health and from integrating those with mental illness.