Dr Shyamanta Das

Stigma remains a powerful negative attribute in social relationships of people with mental illness. Historically, stigma towards people with schizophrenia or depression has differed. Persons with schizophrenia are seen as violent and dangerous, whereas people with depression are seen as more accountable for their illness. Studies comparing stigma in these two illnesses in a systematic manner are few and far between.

Srikrishna Nukala, Srinivas Singisetti, Shvetha Chilukuri, Archana Vinnakota, and Lakshmana Rao Nambaru studied and compared the levels of stigma and discrimination in persons suffering from schizophrenia and depressive disorder. Their work has been published as an original article in the Open Journal of Psychiatry & Allied Sciences (OJPAS), titled “Stigma and discrimination in patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression: a comparative study”.

A cross-sectional study was carried out with 30 patients each of schizophrenia and major depressive disorders attending the outpatient department of psychiatry at a tertiary care hospital in Andhra Pradesh. Diagnosis was made as part of routine clinical assessment and confirmed using the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM-5) criteria. After obtaining informed consent, the patients were subjected to a semi-structured proforma wherein their demographic profiles and additional clinical history was recorded. The main study tool, the discrimination and stigma scale (DISC) was used in all patients.

The mean DISC score was found to be significantly higher in schizophrenia patients than depression patients, i.e., p<0.05, indicating higher stigma and discrimination in patients with schizophrenia, compared to those with major depression.

To conclude, for people with mental illnesses, stigma and discrimination add to the distress and suffering, and hinder their recovery. This plays a greater role in patients with schizophrenia than those with depression.

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