Mental health-related stigma and attitudes toward patient care among providers of mental health services in a rural Chinese county

Yuer Deng, An Li Wang, Rosemary Frasso, Mao Sheng Ran, Tian Ming Zhang, Dexia Kong, Yin Ling Irene Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background and aims: The increasing prevalence of mental illness and low treatment rate presents a pressing public health issue in China. Pervasive stigma is a significant barrier to mental health recovery and community inclusion. In particular, stigmatizing or supportive attitudes held by healthcare providers could either perpetuate or mitigate self-stigma of people with mental illness. Moreover, mental health resources are unevenly distributed in China, with most of them concentrated in urban centers and provincial capitals. This study explores healthcare providers’ attitudes toward mental illness and the challenges they faced at work in a rural Chinese county. Method: Four focus groups were conducted with 36 healthcare providers from a three-tier mental healthcare system in a rural county in southwestern China. Focus group discussions were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The team employed a conventional content analysis approach for data analysis. All transcripts were double-coded by three bilingual team members who are native Chinese speakers. Coding discrepancies were resolved by consensus. Results: Healthcare providers recruited from the county, township, and village levels varied in educational background, professional qualification, and experience of working with people with mental illness. Five thematic categories identified across four groups include (1) barriers to mental healthcare delivery, (2) keys to mental health recovery, (3) providers’ attitudes toward providing care, (4) providers’ perception toward patients and family members, and (5) providers’ perception of training needs. Conclusions: This is a unique study that included healthcare providers from a three-tier healthcare system. Findings signal the importance of understanding healthcare practitioners’ experiences and views to inform the design of training initiatives in rural or low-resource communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-618
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Mental healthcare delivery
  • healthcare providers’ attitudes
  • mental health-related stigma
  • rural China


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