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