Are Psychiatrists not good role models for medical students? Act Psych. jan.2015


Psychiatry is not a particularly desired specialty choice among medical students. A UK study among medical students highlighted some factors that discouraged them from choosing psychiatry: 1.poor prognosis of psychiatric patients (20%) 2. Poor scientific basis of psychiatry (18%) 3. Perceived lack of an evidence base (14%). (C Barton 2011). Many  negative attitudes are part of the wider population perceptions  (about  mental disorder as well as about those who work with them).

Medical teaching faculty’s opinions and ideas are also possibly influencing medical students choices.  Stuart H, Sartorius N, Liinamaa T ( the Images Study Group) asked medical faculty ( non psychiatric) in 15 academic units in UK Europe and Asia. A 37 item questionnaire was used to collect information.

Questions covered key areas:  perceptions of psychiatry as a discipline , perceptions of the effectiveness of psychiatric treatments , perceptions of psychiatrists as role models , perceptions of psychiatry as a career, perceptions of psychiatric patients and perceptions about the quality of psychiatric training. Survey response rate was 65%.


Medical school culture did not view psychiatry as an exciting, rapidly expanding, intellec- tually challenging, or evidence-based branch of medicine. Most thought that psychiatric patients should be treated in specialist centres outside general hospital setting.Majority thought that psychiatrist in their medical schools were not good role models. 20% thought psychiatrists have too much powers and that treatments were not effective.10% thought that psychiatrists medical skills were poor.As a career, psychiatry was seen as having low prestige relative to other specialties.

20% thought that students who went to psychiatry chose it because of their own problems or because they could not get in to other specialties.

Reasons like psychiatry patients are emotionally draining, not appreciative of care provided etc also surfaced in the negative view.

The extent and depth of negative views among academic medical colleagues are alarming. Many other studies have shown that negative comments from significant others have an enormous impact on career choices.


Psychiatry need to do a lot of work to improve the understanding  among the ” physical health” colleagues to change this very negative image. Addressing specific negative themes   should be part of such work. The stigma of psychiatry is still very much alive among medical colleagues.

Summary of the article:

Images of psychiatry and psychiatrists: Acta Psychiatr Scand 2015: 131: 21–28

2 thoughts on “Are Psychiatrists not good role models for medical students? Act Psych. jan.2015

  1. Perceptions need to change.prognosis of all medical disorders like diabetes and hypertension are similar to psychiatric disorders.most of the understanding about psychiatry is wrong.need interventions to mitigate these pseudo reliefs

  2. The present situation of Psychiatry and Psychiatrists are the result of the carelessness and lack of concern for Psychiatry in Medical curriculum. During the undergraduate training in Medicine, no University is seen bothered about the largest malady that has affected the Society. This morbid lack of concern and training has led to the lack of knowledge in the ” Physical Health” colleagues, though most of them daily use at least one Psychopharmacological preparation daily in their practice.
    Every body know that Brain is the seat of mind from the time of Susruta. But tend to conveniently forget this fact when teaching or getting taught in the ailments of the human body.
    Why so, has to be debated and sorted out.
    Teaching the new entrants into the Medical universities that Brain functions include thinking and emotions, how they are generated, sustained and affected in various situations and elaborating the study of Neurology as a whole, will lead to the understanding in those young and fresh minds that, Psychiatry is nothing but the “study of the Behavioural Neurology”. Then the newer “Physical health” colleagues will change the attitude.
    And Psychiatrists may be called “Behavioural Neurologist”, so that glamour will be there as the term Neurology is there, and poor prognosis is there in Neurology also, as a whole. Most of the deterrents in taking up Psychiatry is present in Neurology also. But there are takers for Neurology as lot of glam is attached, why, again nobody knows. Hence alleviating the “stigma” is of supreme importance.
    It is better to be late than never

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