Stigma and Attitudes towards Psychiatric Patients in Portuguese Medical Students

Diogo Telles-Correia, João Gama Marques, João Gramaça, Daniel Sampaio


Introduction: This study aims to assess the impact of psychiatric education on attitudes of medical students towards psychiatric patients.
Material and Methods: A cross-sectional survey of medical students was conducted at the biggest Portuguese medical school. The students completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire, including sociodemographic data, family history of psychiatric illness, and the Community Attitudes toward the Mentally Ill scale.
Results: Of the 2 178 students, 398 answered the survey, representing 18.2% of the whole medical school. There was a significant improvement in all Community Attitudes toward the Mentally Ill scale dimensions along the medical course. The higher scores were in Restrictiveness subscale (38.01), and the lower scores were for Authoritarianism (36.13). The best improvement along the course was for Authoritarianism (5th year score - 1st year score = 2.03), and the worse was for Benevolence (5th year score - 1st year score = 0.39). The biggest improvement, in all scores, was found at the end of the 3rd year.
Discussion: The authors propose that the better attitudes found on third year students were due to a very specific anti-stigma module on the theoretical discipline ‘Introduction to Mental Health’. After that, this positive effect was lost, with fourth and fifth year medical students showing a worsening of their attitudes.
Conclusion: Our results highlight the importance of anti-stigma specific education modules in order to improve students’ attitudes toward mental health. Thus more anti-stigma preventive measures can be taken onward, on preparing the best way possible, the next generation of doctors.


Attitude; Psychiatry; Social Stigma; Students, Medical.

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