Medical Students & Doctors: Mental Health & Stigma

Research Paper Title

Reducing Mental Health Stigma in Medical Students and Doctors towards their Peers with Mental Health Difficulties: A Protocol.

Background

Mental health problems are over-represented in doctors and medical students. However, stigma and ‘a culture of shame’ are formidable barriers to mental health services and consequently many doctors and medical students with mental health difficulties continue to suffer in silence despite the availability of effective treatment.

Indeed, a recent study on over 2,100 female physicians who met the diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder revealed that 50% were reluctant to seek professional help due to fear of exposure to stigma.

Left untreated or undertreated, mental health problems in doctors can result in impairment of occupational functioning, compromise patient safety and place considerable strain on the economy (by increasing the amount of sick leave taken).

Moreover, the consequences of mental health stigma in the medical profession can be fatal. Dr Daksha Emson, a psychiatrist with bipolar affective disorder, tragically killed herself and her baby daughter during a psychotic episode. An independent inquiry into Dr Emson’s death concluded that she was the victim of stigma in the National Health Service.

The mental health of medical students and doctors, in all of its aspects, must therefore be addressed with the urgency that it demands. Stephanie Knaak and colleagues conducted a data synthesis of evaluative studies on anti-stigma programmes for healthcare providers and identified six key ingredients one of which was a personal testimony from a trained speaker who has lived experience of mental illness.

In this paper the authors outline a study protocol with the aim of answering the following research question, ‘Does attending an anti-stigma programme comprised of a medic with first-hand experience of a mental health condition cause immediate and sustained reductions in mental health stigma from medical students and doctors towards their peers with mental health difficulties?’

Reference

Hankir, A., Fletcher-Rogers, J., Ogunmuyiwa, J., Carrick. F.R. & Zaman, R. (2020) Reducing Mental Health Stigma in Medical Students and Doctors towards their Peers with Mental Health Difficulties: A Protocol. Psychiatria Danubina. 32(Suppl 1), pp.130-134.

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