Reducing Stigma Toward Psychiatry Among Medical Students: A Multicenter Controlled Trial

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Objective: To examine the effect of a novel antistigma intervention curriculum (ASIC) in reducing stigma toward psychiatry among medical students.

Methods: Medical students from 8 hospitals in central Israel were divided into intervention (n = 57) and control (n = 163) arms. The students completed the 30-item Attitudes Toward Psychiatry (ATP-30) and the Attitudes Toward Mental Illness (AMI) scales at psychiatry rotation onset and conclusion. The ASIC was designed to target prejudices and stigma through direct informal encounters with people with serious mental illness (SMI) during periods of remission and recovery. Supervised small-group discussions followed those encounters to facilitate processing of thoughts and emotions that ensued and to discuss salient topics in psychiatry. The study was conducted between November 2017 and July 2018.

Results: Significant between-group differences were found at endpoint for attitudes toward psychiatry and psychiatric patients (P < .001). Although changing attitudes toward psychiatry as a career choice was not part of the ASIC, a significant between-group difference emerged by endpoint (P < .001).

Conclusions: Implementation of an ASIC that includes contact with individuals with lived SMI experience followed by supervised small-group discussions is effective in reducing stigma in medical students’ perceptions of people with mental illness and psychiatry. Further evaluation is warranted with regard to the long-term destigmatizing effects of an ASIC.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT03907696

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2020;22(2):19m02527