Global Resources

Mental Illness and Social Stigma: Experiences in a Pakistani Community in the UK

Author: E. Wheeler
Publisher: Oxfam
Publication Date: Mar 1998
Qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with migrant women from Pakistan and first generation Britons previously discharged from in-patient psychiatric care illustrate the unintended and adverse consequences of this care. There are no direct translations of psychiatric terms such as ?depression? into Urdu/Punjabi or Mirpuri, and the distinction between illnesses of the body and the mind is made less sharply in traditional Asian healing than in western medicine. Interviewees described the label ?mentally ill? being translated as ?pagal? (literally ?mad?), and their being met with misunderstanding and stigma from their families and the Pakistani community. They identify family problems, traumas and conflicts, lack of support, as well as stresses of separation brought about by migration, as having caused their health problems. Hospitalisation further complicates family situations, losing them respect from their children, involvement in family decision-making, and support and recognition from the extended family. Facilities need to be provided in mother tongue languages, which are not labelled ?mental? health services, and which provide both counselling support and teaching of practical skills in order to make them acceptable to Pakistani users. Home-based care, which avoids the stigmatisation of hospital, is also recommended.