Stigma of mental illness among Chinese people

Robert Fung

I read with interest the paper by Chung & Wong ‘Experiences of stigma among Chinese mental health patients in Hong Kong’ (Psychiatric Bulletin, December 2004, 28, 451–454). They cited as one limitation of their study that their results might not extrapolate to the Chinese population in other countries. A preliminary assessment of the mental health needs of Chinese young people in Birmingham, UK (Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, 2005) revealed that stigma remains an important issue among Chinese in the UK. The assessment concluded that the majority of Chinese young people and their parents perceive mental illness as being ‘crazy’ and associated with violence. This finding agrees with the conclusion of Chung & Wong’s paper that many Chinese patients have experienced stigma and discrimination in Hong Kong.

Chung & Wong stated that the term ‘mental illness’ can be associated with stigma, yet they used the same term in their study questionnaire. In their clinical implications section, they have sensibly replaced the term ‘mental illness’ with ‘mental health problems’, which is a less stigmatising term. Their findings might have been more positive if they had used the term ‘mental health problems’ instead of ‘mental illness’ in their questionnaire.