Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

The Attitude of Medical Students to Psychiatric Patients and Their Disorders and the Influence of Psychiatric Study Placements in Bringing about Changes in Attitude

Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

The Attitude of Medical Students to Psychiatric Patients and Their Disorders and the Influence of Psychiatric Study Placements in Bringing about Changes in Attitude

Article excerpt

Abstract: The aim of this study was to determine the general attitude of final year medical students towards psychiatric patients and psychiatric disorders and to reveal the influence of psychiatric study experience in changing the behavior and perception of students. The study comprised 172 final year medical students undergoing a period of placement at the Ondokuz Mayis University Medical School Department of Psychiatry who agreed to participate. They were asked to fill in the Opinions about Mental Illness Ideology Scale (OMI) the day before they commenced, on the last day of their placement and three months after completing it. The students reported the highest and lowest scores from the benevolence and social restrictiveness sub-dimensions of the OMI, respectively. The mean authoritarianism score was significantly higher in males than in females. The means of the OMI scores obtained over the three different periods were not statistically different. Medical school psychiatry departments need to develop new curricula to convey scientific information to students and play a pivotal role in developing, implementing and evaluating suitable programs leading to appropriate attitude development.

Considering their prevalence, their tendency to manifest high continuity and general difficulties in their treatment, mental disorders constitute a major public health problem. Today the global life-long prevalence for any given psychiatric disorder is reported to be as high as 48.0% (1). In other words, it is estimated that there are at least 450 million people in the world currently suffering from some kind of mental disorder, with 150 million affected by depression and 25 million by schizophrenia (2).

Of all factors affecting the quality of mental health care services, the attitude of society towards such patients is the most important (3). Society's attitude towards mental illnesses directly affects patients' awareness of the disorder in question, their search for a cure and medical care, communications with doctors and the whole process of therapy and rehabilitation (4, 5). Incomplete knowledge, misinformation and stigmatization have a direct negative impact on early diagnosis of the disorder and the commencement of therapy at an early stage (6), determination with regard to seeking proper medical care and seeing a doctor (7), patients' acceptance of and following through with the therapy recommended (3), patients' consent to hospitalization (8), their participation in rehabilitation functions (9), social adaptation, coherence with society and regaining functionality (10). From this point of view, stigmatization of psychiatric diseases and psychiatric patients is a major obstacle to therapy and cure (11,12).

Society is known to exhibit negative attitudes, opinions and behavior towards mental illnesses for a number of different reasons (13-16). In Turkey, although minor differences may be observed, the same general situation applies (17). Health-care providers need to make considerable efforts to deal with this stigmatization in order to be more effective in caring for mental illnesses, as well as to help society adopt a more positive attitude and thus provide social support and social inclusion for patients, which is a key element in therapeutic success. However, studies indicate that apart from those working in the field of psychiatry, health-care providers at all levels display no interest in mental illnesses or associated problems (18, 19). It is impossible for medical school students to remain unaffected by the culture in which they live. The objective in medical training must not be merely the transmission of information but also the acquisition of appropriate forms of behavior by attaching due importance to information, ability and the application thereof. Medical training is an excellent environment in which proper and professional attitudes towards psychiatric patients can be acquired. For this reason, it is important to determine the attitudes of medical students toward psychiatric patients and psychiatric disorder, as well as to demonstrate the impact of proper medical education and psychiatric practice in bringing about a positive change. …

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