EPA guidance on improving the image of psychiatry

  • A. M. Möller-Leimkühler
  • H.-J. Möller
  • W. Maier
  • W. Gaebel
  • P. Falkai
Original Paper


This paper explores causes, explanations and consequences of the negative image of psychiatry and develops recommendations for improvement. It is primarily based on a WPA guidance paper on how to combat the stigmatization of psychiatry and psychiatrists and a Medline search on related publications since 2010. Furthermore, focussing on potential causes and explanations, the authors performed a selective literature search regarding additional image-related issues such as mental health literacy and diagnostic and treatment issues. Underestimation of psychiatry results from both unjustified prejudices of the general public, mass media and healthcare professionals and psychiatry’s own unfavourable coping with external and internal concerns. Issues related to unjustified devaluation of psychiatry include overestimation of coercion, associative stigma, lack of public knowledge, need to simplify complex mental issues, problem of the continuum between normality and psychopathology, competition with medical and non-medical disciplines and psychopharmacological treatment. Issues related to psychiatry’s own contribution to being underestimated include lack of a clear professional identity, lack of biomarkers supporting clinical diagnoses, limited consensus about best treatment options, lack of collaboration with other medical disciplines and low recruitment rates among medical students. Recommendations are proposed for creating and representing a positive self-concept with different components. The negative image of psychiatry is not only due to unfavourable communication with the media, but is basically a problem of self-conceptualization. Much can be improved. However, psychiatry will remain a profession with an exceptional position among the medical disciplines, which should be seen as its specific strength.


Stigma Self-stigma Professional identity Biopsychosocial models Self-marketing Recruitment of medical students 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. Möller-Leimkühler
    • 1
  • H.-J. Möller
    • 1
  • W. Maier
    • 2
  • W. Gaebel
    • 3
  • P. Falkai
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyHeinrich-Heine-University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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