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Reducing the stigma of mental illness among medical students
Research Day
  • Victoria Lawn, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Matthew Jaffa, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Catherine Babbitt-Cook, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Burton Mark, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Jane Dumsha, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Marcus G. Bell, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Denah M. Appelt, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Philadelphia Campus
Start Date
1-5-2013 2:00 PM
End Date
1-5-2013 4:00 PM
Background: The American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates Resolution 205 recommends “increased awareness of depression amongst U.S. medical students” due to the increasing body of research describing the rise of depression, burn-out and suicide ideation among medical students. There is consequently a need to understand mental health issues as a component of professional development. Hypothesis: A student-led symposium addressing mental and emotional health topics relevant to medical students will reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Materials and Methods: A 2-hour student-run “Patient Perspective” session was held during the second year neuroscience block in the PCOM DO program. One week before the program, a student-developed, online Wellness Survey measured prevalence of mental illness, common feelings during medical school, coping mechanisms used for stress, and use of mental health resources. Immediately before and after the program, students were asked to report their familiarity with mental illness and their feelings regarding a vignette about a mentally ill woman. Pre- and post-activity surveys were provided by the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and adapted for the event. During the program, data from the online survey were shared, student organizers discussed emotional wellness and positive coping mechanisms in the context of the profession, and student panelists shared their experiences with mental health issues. A faculty psychiatrist spoke about mental health resources, and attendees received pamphlets listing these resources. The event concluded with student-led breakout sessions in which stress during medical school and strategies for promoting positive coping mechanisms were discussed, followed by administration of the post-activity survey. Results: 113 students completed the pre-activity survey; 89 completed the post-activity survey. For these 89, differences between responses were universally in the direction of increasing acceptance and decreasing stigma of those with mental illness; all differences were statistically significant. The largest shift regarded students’ reluctance to disclose their own theoretical mental illness to colleagues. Conclusion: Incorporating an emotional health symposium into medical students’ training may increase understanding and acceptance of those who may have mental illness and reduce stigma associated with mental illness.
Citation Information
Victoria Lawn, Matthew Jaffa, Catherine Babbitt-Cook, Burton Mark, et al.. "Reducing the stigma of mental illness among medical students" (2013)
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