The Mental Illness Stigma in Israel

As advanced as Israel’s healthcare system may be, there are still shortcomings that must be recognized and improved. One of these is the mental illness stigma that can be found in Israel. Multiple studies have been conducted to look into the specifics behind this stigma, the resulting affects and what can be done to help.

Knowledge of Mental Health Care Among The Public 

Just because health care options exist in Israel, it doesn’t mean people know about them or have adequate access. One study found that only a third of Israeli respondents knew where a mental health facility was located near them. They also discovered that more Israeli people were aware of drugs for depression rather than for schizophrenia. These findings are important to help health care professionals in Israel understand why some people with mental health conditions aren’t seeking help. Without receiving proper and timely treatment, mental issues can develop into worse conditions.

Openness to Seeking Mental Health Care 

After understanding how many Israelis have knowledge of mental health care options, the next step is to understand how many are open to the idea. One study conducted found that around 13% of Israelis questioned would be willing to seek out help from a professional for feeling ‘anxious’ or ‘tense’. However, this number jumped to over two-thirds when the issues surrounded an actual psychiatric problem. This result suggests that Israeli people are generally open to seeking out mental health care if there are identifiable issues related to a psychiatric issue. Interestingly, Israelis who are receiving mental health treatment or have been more exposed to it, are generally more open to the idea.

Private vs Public Mental Health Care in Israel 

Another important and interesting discussion surrounding the stigma of mental health is where the treatment should take place. Some Israelis say public sectors while others mention a preference for private. However, there seems to be merit for both arguments. A study conducted in Israel found that people generally prefer to be treated privately if all costs are the same. This was especially true for matters of mental health. Another question looks at if mental health care should be included into the general medicine of Israel or have specific clinics. The same study found that there is a preference amongst the public for clinics that focus primarily on mental health. A majority of the decisions (75%) were made with regards to quality of care. However, about 18% of those Israelis in favor of general clinics also cited the same reason. Although their are general preferences, it is clear that the public holds different assumptions about general vs specifically focused clinics.

With regards to hospitalization, the trend is quite different. The trend shows that people have a preference for being hospitalized in a general hospital that has a psychiatric ward rather than a lone psychiatric ward. If a clinic is in need by a family member, 72% of the respondents prefer it to be close to the hospital for reasons such as visits and overseeing treatment. Still, another 19% preferred one that was further away.

Identification and Interaction with Mental Illness 

The next level of analysis looks at how Israeli individuals themselves interact with those who have a mental illness. One study has estimated that about 6% of respondents had a relative with a ‘psychiatric illness’. About one-fifth of Israeli participants reported have a neighbor with a psychiatric illness. This number was the same for those who had a family friend with the same issue. The same study found that Israeli respondents believed, in a high percentage, that they could identify an individual with a mental illness based on their appearance, the way they speak or their behavior.

When describing hypothetical people, the researchers found that Israelis were generally capable of identifying someone with depression. However, it was found that respondents typically don’t recognize it as a psychiatric illness and have an attitude of anger towards those who suffer from depression. Another interesting find suggests that Israeli respondents held less of a stigma towards patients when understanding the traumatic events behind the hospitalization. The study identifies this as one of the possible ways to lessen the stigma surrounding hospitalization for a psychiatric illness. If the background events are attributed for the hospitalization, less emphasis will be placed on the mental illness of the individual.

About the Author
Rachel Brenner is a Professor of Jewish Studies. Her research focuses on Jewish Literature and has published dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters.
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