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Damane, Bernadett ‘Malehlohonolo
National University of Lesotho

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Mental illness is a pervasive and disabling problem worldwide especially in low and middle income countries. In Lesotho, people with mental illness are first attended at primary health care settings by mostly non-psychiatric health personnel. Inadequate mental health knowledge has been shown to result in negative attitudes towards mental illness thereby affecting negatively the behaviour of health care providers towards people with mental illness.

The aim of the study was to describe nurses’ knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) towards mental illness in the Mafeteng district, Lesotho. A quantitative cross-sectional descriptive design was adopted in this study with a convenience sample of 79 respondents.

A four-part pilot tested structured questionnaire was utilised to collect data from the nursing staff placed at Mafeteng district government and Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) health facilities. Data was collected following approval by Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee (HSREC) of the University of the Free State (UFS) and Ministry of Health Research Ethics Committee, Lesotho. Gaps in relation to the KAP of nurses towards mental illness have been identified.

A significant number of the nursing staff believes that mental illness is not a serious problem and patients with mental illness do not deserve the same attention that other patients do. These beliefs signify insufficient knowledge and inappropriate attitudes that impact on how nurses react towards mental illness and patients with mental illness.

Even though majority of respondents endorsed that psychotropic medications are effective in treating mental illness, they are not comfortable to be around these patients. Only 37% of the 79 respondents feel that they are adequately prepared to address mental illness Recommendations made include initiation of mental health educational programmes for nurses to empower them to increase their knowledge in order to gain of confidence in issues of mental health and illness.

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