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Abstract: 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 would reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Materials and Methods: A 2-hour student-run “Patient Perspective” was held during the second neuroscience block at an osteopathic medical school in the northeastern United States. 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 using “Mental Illness Among Us” pre and post surveys 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 at which stress during medical school and strategies for promoting positive coping mechanisms were discussed, followed by the post survey. Results: 113 students completed the pre survey, 89 of whom completed the post survey. For these 89, differences between post and pre 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.

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stigma, mental illness, medical students


Medical Education | Psychiatry and Psychology

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness Among Medical Students