We recently discussed the results of a study about derogatory and cynical humor used by residents and assistants towards mental health patients. These results were in line with the results of a previous published study with medical students: ingrained prejudices and misinformation is the rule. Mental health patients are trouble.
Iatrogenic stigma is stigma resulting from the attitudes and behaviors of healthcareprofessionals this may limit help seeking when symptoms of a mental disorder first appear.
A recent study is published about the attitudes of pharmacy students toward people with mental disorders. This study was done with a survey of third year pharmacy students at eight universities in six countries.
With this study it was possible to compare and contrast the extent to which pharmacy students in Australia, Belgium, Finland, India, Estonia and Latvia hold stigmatizing attitudes toward people with schizophrenia and severe depression. Respondents (n = 642) indicated how strongly they endorsed six stigmatizing statements about patients with schizophrenia and severe depression.
The percentage of students who self-reported family experience of a mental disorder ranged from 12% in India to 34% in Finland.
Between 52.5% of students in Australia and 65.1% in Finland agreed that people with schizophrenia are a danger to others. Between 30.3% of students in Australia and 60.0% in Estonia and Latvia agreed that people with schizophrenia are difficult to talk to. Between 9.8% of students in Belgium and 43.8% in Finland agreed that people with severe depression have themselves to blame.
These results are contrary as expected that mental health stigma is particularly severe in the developing countries. The danger of these results is that people collecting prescriptions for psycho-tropic medications may be less likely to receive medication counselling than those people collecting prescriptions for other commonly dispensed classes of medications.
These poor attitudes and misconceptions should be dealt with in pharmacy education. Education about mental health care deserves greater attention in the curricula of most pharmacy schools over different countries especially in the developed countries. To my opinion the participation of mental health patients in pharmacy curricula should be obligatory.
These results do not imply that pharmacists show discriminatory behavior in the pharmacy workplace.
J. Simon Bell, S. Elina Aaltonen, Elina Bronstein, Franciska A. Desplenter, Veerle Foulon, Anna Vitola, Ruta Muceniece, Manjiri S. Gharat, Daisy Volmer, Marja S. Airaksinen, Timothy F. Chen (2008). Attitudes of pharmacy students toward people with mental disorders, a six country study Pharmacy World & Science, 30 (5), 595-599 DOI: 10.1007/s11096-008-9211-x