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Acad Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;39(3):280-5. doi: 10.1007/s40596-014-0169-9. Epub 2014 Jun 6.

An assessment of attitudes towards people with mental illness among medical students and physicians in Ibadan, Nigeria.

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Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA,



The authors surveyed attitudes towards mental illness among Nigerian medical personnel at three different levels of training and experience: medical students who had not completed their psychiatry rotation, medical students who had competed their psychiatry rotation, and graduate physicians.


Six questions addressed beliefs about the effectiveness of treatments for four specific mental illnesses (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety) and two medical illnesses (diabetes and hypertension) among the three groups. A self-report questionnaire including 56 dichotomous items was used to compare beliefs about and attitudes towards people with mental illness. Factor analysis was used to identify key attitudes and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to compare the groups adjusting for age and personal experience with people with mental illness.


There were no significant trends in attitudes towards the effectiveness of medication. Exploratory factor analysis of the beliefs and attitudes items identified four factors: (1) comfort socializing with people with mental, illness; (2) non-superstitious beliefs about the causes of mental illness; (3) neighborly feelings towards people with mental illness; and (4) belief that stress and abuse are part of the etiology of mental illness. ANCOVA comparing attitudes among the three groups showed that on three (1, 2, and 4) of the four factors medical students who had completed a rotation in psychiatry had significantly higher scores than the medical students who had not completed a rotation in psychiatry. Graduate physicians showed a similar pattern scoring higher than the medical students who had not completed a rotation in psychiatry in two factors (1 and 4) but showed no differences from students who had completed their psychiatry rotation.


While beliefs about medication effectiveness do not differ between medical trainees and graduate professionals, stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental illness seem to be most strongly affected by clinical training. Psychiatric education and especially clinical experience result in more progressive attitudes towards people with mental illness.

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