Insight into public attitudes towards various forms of mental disturbance may be a big help in the development of educational programs and public campaigns aimed at modifying existing stereotypes.
Objective. The purpose of this study was to find out how the onset of schizophrenia is reflected in public opinion and what methods of intervention are preferred.
Subjects and method. As part of a larger survey conducted by CBOS on a representative random-address adult sample of Polish society (N= l003) in December 1999 respondents were given descriptions of typical behaviours which experts conceive to be signs of the onset of schizophrenia and a list of forced-choice questions concerning their qualification and possible interventions.
Results. Respondents preferred interpretations accentuating the transitory nature and non-morbid determination of the presented behaviours. Only one respondent in five qualified the behaviours as morbid. Psychological support by close relatives or professionals specialising in coping with difficult problems were the most frequently indicated methods of intervention. Psychiatric counselling was less popular: However, if the question was formulated so as to suggest the onset of mental disease, psychological and psychiatric counselling in an out-patient setting were the most frequently indicated methods of intervention. Respondent seldom chose hospital treatment, especially involuntary treatment. Conclusion. The process of defining the onset of schizophrenia and its treatment in psychiatric terms are not salient in social perception. This may lead to delay in seeking professional help.