Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Over the past century, as a greater understanding has been developed regarding the brain and mental health disorders, a stigma surrounding the field of mental health has emerged. The goal of this study was to analyze how the public perception of depression relates to the stigma surrounding mental illness and define the relationship between the two. This investigation took place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago.

In Chile, one of the consequences of the stigma regarding mental health disorders is usage of the mental health services offered. Not uncommonly, a medic would give a mental health evaluation and prognosis to a patient, who, upon discovering they had a mental disorder, would choose to not accept the services offered due to the fact that they perceived those services to be used only by people who are “insane.” Past studies have examined potential cultural implications regarding mental health stigma in Chile (Moreira 2007), stigma as a barrier to the usage of mental health services in Latin America (Acuña & Bolis 2005), and important ways to fight back against stigma in Chile (López 2008).

To determine the public perception of depression in Santiago with a one-month time constraint, a 15-question survey was administered to 200 students, professors, and faculty at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Additionally, two personal interviews were conducted with psychologists working in the public health sector. From the data received, it was ascertained that a relatively strong stigma exists in regards to depression, although other stigmas concerning disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders tend to be stronger. The majority of participants believed that people suffering from depression are rarely accepted in Chilean society. Additionally, it was determined that the public perception of depression, while relatively negative, is riddled with flaws, misunderstandings, and conflation with other mental illnesses.

Among the conclusions drawn from this study, the most important conclusion was that the public perception of depression relates to its stigma due to the fact that the perception is misinformed and judgmental, propagating the discrimination of the mentally ill. Through the education of the general population, this stigma could be diminished, allowing many people to finally accept the necessary treatments for their mental illnesses.


Mental and Social Health | Other Public Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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