Attitudes of undergraduates towards mental illness: A comparison between nursing and business management students in India

P Vijayalakshmi, D Reddy, S B Math, R Thimmaiah


Background. Mental illness is an important public health issue worldwide; stigmatisation and negative attitudes towards people with mental illness are widespread among the general public. However, little is known about the attitudes of undergraduates to mental illness. 

Purpose. To compare the attitudes towards mental illness among undergraduates enrolled in nursing courses v. those enrolled in Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) courses. 

Methods. A cross-sectional descriptive design was adopted for the present study. A total of 268 undergraduates were selected to complete the Attitude Scale for Mental Illness (ASMI) and the Opinions about Mental Illness in the Chinese Community (OMICC) questionnaires. 

Results. We found significant differences between the number of nursing and BBM students who agreed with statements posed by the questionnaires, e.g., that they would move out of their community if a mental health facility was established there (χ2=16.503, p<0.002), that they were not afraid of treated mentally ill people (χ2=15.279, p<0.004), and that people with mental illness tend to be violent (χ2=14.215, p<0.007) and dangerous (χ2=17.808, p<0.001). Nursing students disagreed that people with mental illness are easily identified (χ2=30.094, p<0.000), have a lower IQ (χ2=70.689, p<0.000) and should not have children (χ2=24.531, p<0.000). Nursing students were more benevolent than BBM students, as they agreed that people with mental illness can hold a job (χ2=49.992, p<0.000) and can return to their former position (χ2=11.596, p<0.021), that everyone faces the possibility of becoming mentally ill (χ2=38.726, p<0.000), and that one should not laugh at the mentally ill (χ2=17.407, p<0.002). Nursing students held less pessimistic attitudes, as they felt that the mentally ill should receive the same pay for the same job (χ2=10.669, p<0.031) and that the public are prejudiced towards people with mental illness (χ2=17.604, p<0.001).

Conclusion. College students’ attitudes towards people with mental illness vary based on the course that they are enrolled in. Attitudes may be positively improved by revising curriculum design to incorporate educational sessions about mental illness. These are essential steps to combat discrimination, and potentially enhance the promotion of human rights for the mentally ill.


Bachelor's of Business Management students; Nursing students; Undergraduates; Mental illness; Attitudes; Stigma

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Submitted: 05 September 2012
Published: 30 August 2013

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)