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Background: Public attitudes influence social acceptability of mental illness and one’s decision to seek help. Despite the high prevalence rate of psychological disorders in Saudi Arabia, few studies have been conducted to examine young adults’ attitudes toward mental illness in the Kingdom. Up until today, no studies have examined the differences in attitudes toward mental illness between Saudis and non-Saudis living in Saudi Arabia.
Aim: The main aim of the study is to examine associations between demographic characteristics (educational level, gender, past experience with mental illness and nationality), and attitudes toward mental illness in Saudi Arabia.
Participants and methods: The sample in this study consisted of 242 participants (females = 188; males = 54), aged 18-29. Attitudes toward mental illness were assessed using a modified version of the Attitudes to Mental Illness (AMI). The 20-item instrument measures four factors of attitudes: social distancing, tolerance and support for community care, social restrictiveness, and prejudice and misconception. The data was collected using surveys posted online.
Results: Results revealed that people with bachelor’s degrees or higher are more socially distant and socially restrictive toward people with mental illness. Consistent with previous findings, participants with past experiences with mental illness scored higher on positive attitude scale, scoring lower on social distancing, social restrictiveness, prejudice and misconception and higher on tolerance and support for community care than people with no past experiences with mental illness. In addition, females scored higher than males on the positive attitude scale, scoring lower in social distancing, prejudice and misconception and higher on tolerance and support for community care. Furthermore, Saudis scored higher on positive attitude scale, scoring lower than non-Saudis on social distancing and prejudice and misconceptions.
Conclusion and recommendations: The findings of this study revealed that young adults’ attitudes toward mental illness are influenced by educational level, gender, past experience with mental illness and nationality.
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