Stigmatizing attitudes in nurses towards people with mental illness: a cross-sectional study in primary settings in Finland

N. Ihalainen-Tamlander, A. Vähäniemi, E. Löyttyniemi, T. Suominen, Maritta Anneli Vaelimaeki

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Factors associated with nurses’ attitudes towards people with mental illness in health-care settings are discrepant. Stigmatized attitudes among staff members towards patients with mental illness have widely been studied in various specialized health care contexts, but less often in primary health-care settings. What this paper adds to the existing knowledge?: Nurses’ attitudes towards people with mental illness in general were positive in primary care health settings. Younger nurses expressed feeling afraid of mentally ill patients. They not only lacked a feeling of safety around these patients but were also often of the opinion that people with mental illness should be segregated from the general population. What are the implications for practice?: Systematic and continuous mental health on-the-job training for primary care nurses is recommended to strengthen the positive attitudes of young nurses towards patients. Young nurses especially should be prevented from developing stigmatized attitudes towards patients with mental problems and to ensure a skilled workforce for the future in this demanding area of health care. Abstract: Introduction Despite the development of mental health services in many countries, nurses working in different health care specialties may still have concerns and negative attitudes towards people with mental illness. Aim To describe nurses’ attitudes towards people with mental illness and examine factors associated with their attitudes in primary care health centres. Method The data were collected from nursing staff (N = 264, response rate 84%) in 15 primary care health centres in two Finnish cities (spring 2014) with a self-report questionnaire (Attribution Questionnaire-27, Corrigan 2003) and analysed by descriptive statistics and multiway covariance analysis. Results Nurses’ attitudes towards people with mental illness were generally positive. The nurses mostly reported willingness to help and feelings of concern and sympathy towards these patients. However, younger nurses or those without additional mental health training expressed a fear of patients. Discussion Special attention should be paid to nursing education and on-the-job training to prevent young nurses from developing stigmatized attitudes towards patients. Implications for practice Higher confidence in nursing staff could ensure a skilled work force in areas of mental health in the future, prevent young nurses from developing a fear of patients at work and support positive attitudes towards patients with mental problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-437
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • attitude
  • Attribution Questionnaire-27
  • mental illness
  • nurse
  • primary health care
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health

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