Perception and coping with stigma of mental illness: Arab families' perspectives

Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2012 Jul;33(7):486-91. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2012.676720.


Family stigma is well documented in the research literature; however, it has only been recently that efforts have been undertaken to discuss the perception of stigma as reported by Arab families of relatives with mental illness. This clinical paper aims to identify families' perception of stigma related to mental illness, and to compare Arab families' approaches with various aspects of caring from different countries. Further, this paper discusses, in-depth, specific areas related to families' perceptions of stigma: What impacts does stigma perception have on those families and on their relatives' care outcomes and what are coping strategies are used to handle stigma and its impacts in such countries? This paper emphasizes that chronic mental illness contributes the most to families' perception of stigma. In this study, Arab families perceived the experience of caring for a family member with a mental illness with fear, loss, embarrassment, and disgrace of family reputations. Further, secrecy, isolation, despair, and helplessness were reported the most among different family groups in Jordan and Morocco. This paper reminds us that cultural norms and beliefs shape family members' perception of coping and their ability to manage caring for relatives with mental illnesses. Thus, more studies are needed concerning coping and management strategies that are culturally relevant. This could eventually guide the establishment of stigma reduction initiatives and expand understanding of stigma from different cultural perspectives.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Arabs / ethnology*
  • Arabs / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Family / ethnology*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Mental Disorders / nursing*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Social Change
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Stigma*