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J Med Educ Curric Dev. 2017 Apr 20;4:2382120517705123. doi: 10.1177/2382120517705123. eCollection 2017 Jan-Dec.

What Influences Mental Illness? Discrepancies Between Medical Education and Conception.

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New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, NY, USA.



This preliminary study examined the differences between what was taught during a formal medical education and medical students' and psychiatry residents' conceptions of notions regarding the causes and determinants of mental illness.


The authors surveyed 74 medical students and 11 residents via convenience sampling. The survey contained 18 statements which were rated twice based on truthfulness in terms of a participant's formal education and conception, respectively. Descriptive statistics and a Wilcoxon signed rank test determined differences between education and conception.


Results showed that students were less likely to perceive a neurotransmitter imbalance to cause mental illness, as opposed to what was emphasized during a formal medical education. Students and residents also understood the importance of factors such as systemic racism and socioeconomic status in the development of mental illness, which were factors that did not receive heavy emphasis during medical education. Furthermore, students and residents believed that not only did mental illnesses have nonuniform pathologies, but that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also had the propensity to sometimes arbitrarily categorize individuals with potentially negative consequences.


If these notions are therefore part of students' and residents' conceptions, as well as documented in the literature, then it seems appropriate for medical education to be further developed to emphasize these ideas.


Behavioral science; individualized care; medical education; psychiatry

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration Of Conflicting Interests:The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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