Stigma of mental illness and substance misuse in sub-Saharan African migrants: A qualitative study Academic Article uri icon


  • Stigma of mental illness and substance misuse can deter help seeking, especially in immigrants who are often reluctant to seek help early for these issues. The aim of the present study was to explore the stigma experience surrounding mental illness and substance misuse, and its implications for improving help seeking, for youths and parents from sub-Saharan African immigrant communities. A qualitative, descriptive design was used. Individual interviews were undertaken with 28 youths, and focus group discussions were held with 41 parents and community leaders in Melbourne, Australia. The findings indicated that public stigma and self-stigma were common and deterred participants' help seeking within sub-Saharan African communities. There was concern about the consequences of disclosure. Personal shame, fear of community rejection, and being labelled a 'lunatic' deterred help seeking. Programmes are needed to address stigma, promote help seeking, and increase mental health knowledge. Mental health nurses and other clinicians in the mental health and alcohol and other drug fields can make an important contribution. Steps are needed to employ more sub-Saharan African immigrant clinicians to help increase help seeking from their communities.

publication date

  • 2018