Repository logo

A qualitative exploration of the perspectives of mental health professionals on stigma and discrimination of mental illness in Malaysia.

Change log


Hanafiah, Ainul Nadhirah 


BACKGROUND: Stigma of mental illness has been identified as a significant barrier to help-seeking and care. Basic knowledge of mental illness - such as its nature, symptoms and impact - are neglected, leaving room for misunderstandings on mental health and 'stigma'. Numerous researches have been conducted on stigma and discrimination of people with mental disorders. However, most of the literature investigates stigma from a cultural conception point of view, experiences of patients or public attitudes towards mental illness but little to none from the standpoint of mental health professionals. In Malaysia, this research on stigma is particularly limited. Therefore, the state of stigma and discrimination of people with mental illness was investigated from the perspectives of mental health professionals in Malaysia. METHODS: In-depth, face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 mental health professionals from both government and private sectors including psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. The interviews were approximately 45-minutes long. The data was subsequently analysed using the basic thematic approach. RESULTS: Seven principal themes, each with their own sub-themes, emerged from the analysis of 'stigma of mental illness' from mental health professionals' point of view, including: (1) main perpetrators, (2) types of mental illness carrying stigma, (3) demography and geography of stigma, (4) manifestations of stigma, (5) impacts of stigma, (6) causes of stigma and (7) proposed initiatives to tackle stigma. Stigma of mental illness is widespread in Malaysia. This is most evident amongst people suffering from conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Stigma manifests itself most often in forms of labelling, rejection, social exclusion and in employment. Family, friends and workplace staff are reported to be the main perpetrators of discriminatory conducts. CONCLUSION: According to the perspectives of the mental health professionals, implications of stigma include patients being trapped in a vicious cycle of discrimination leading to detrimental consequences for the individual, their families, communities and society as a whole. There is a pressing need to address stigma of mental illness and its consequences, especially through raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing in Malaysia, as reported by the mental health professionals.



Discrimination, Malaysia, Mental health, Mental health Malaysia, Mental health professionals, Mental illness, Stigma

Journal Title

Int J Ment Health Syst

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Springer Science and Business Media LLC