DOI: 10.1111/inm.13206 ISSN:

Self and public stigma towards mental illnesses and its predictors among university students in 11 Arabic‐speaking countries: A multi‐site study

Omar Al Omari, Blessy Prabha Valsaraj, Moawiah Khatatbeh, Mohammed Baqer Al‐Jubouri, Mahmoud Emam, Iman Al Hashmi, Mohammad Al Qadire, Maen Aljezawi, Mohammed ALBashtawy, Abdullah Alkhawaldeh, Aisha Awad Hasona, Zeinab Tarhini, Jalal Damra, Sulaiman Al Sabei, Nora Mohamed
  • Pshychiatric Mental Health


This study aimed to explore self and public stigma towards mental illness and associated factors among university students from 11 Arabic‐speaking countries. This cross‐sectional study included 4241 university students recruited from Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria, Sudan, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt. The participants completed three self‐administrative online questionnaires—Demographic Proforma (age, gender, family income, etc.), Peer Mental Health Stigmatization Scale and Mental Health Knowledge Questionnaire. There was a significant difference in the average mean between the 11 countries (p < 0.01) based on stigma agreement (self) and stigma awareness (public). The mean stigma agreement towards mental illnesses among university students was 19.7 (SD = 6.0), with the lowest in Lebanon, 15.9 (SD = 5.1) and the highest in UAE, 24.1 (SD = 5.6). The factors associated with stigma agreement included poor knowledge, being male, high family income, age, weak cumulative grade point average (cGPA), mothers with primary education, an unemployed parent, students in scientific colleges and fathers who completed secondary or university degrees. Furthermore, the factors associated with stigma awareness included good knowledge, acceptable cGPA and having a father who has a low income and is illiterate. Stigma towards mental illness varies among university students across Arabic‐speaking countries. There is a need to sensitize youngsters to the need for a humanitarian approach in society to individuals affected by mental health concerns. Major governmental reforms must be initiated for the provision of mental health services for individuals with mental illnesses.

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