Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 182, Issue 4, pp 679–685 | Cite as

Attitudes towards patients with mental illness in Irish medical students

  • K. O’ ConnorEmail author
  • D. Brennan
  • K. O’ Loughlin
  • L. Wilson
  • D. Pillay
  • M. Clarke
  • P. Casey
  • K. Malone
  • A. Lane
Original Article



A positive attitude to patients with mental illness is important in all branches of medicine, as it can impact on the quality of care patients receive from doctors. Attitudes of preclinical medical students is an under researched area.


This study aims to (1) assess the attitudes of preclinical and clinical medical students to patients with mental illness and (2) assess the effect of two modules taught using different teaching methods on students’ attitudes to patients with mental illness.


During the same academic year all students (N = 394) completing the year 3 preclinical psychiatry module and the final year psychiatry module completed an attitudinal questionnaire at the beginning and following completion of the module. Seventy-two percent of students completed both pre- and post-module questionnaires in full (n = 285).


There was no significant difference in attitudes displayed by preclinical and clinical medical students prior to starting their respective modules. An association was found between female gender and more tolerant attitudes (r = 0.20, p = 0.02). Students who knew someone with experience of mental illness were associated with more tolerant attitudes (r = 0.32, p < 0.001). Final year students who completed the clinical module demonstrated a positive attitudinal shift (p < 0.001), and the attitudes of third and final year male students improved significantly following the module (p < 0.05).


Given the high rates of physical illness in patients with mental health problems, specific educational initiatives to address medical student’s attitudes to patients with mental health problems should be an educational priority in medical school.


Psychiatry Stigma Students Attitudes Education Mental illness 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. O’ Connor
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Brennan
    • 4
  • K. O’ Loughlin
    • 2
  • L. Wilson
    • 3
  • D. Pillay
    • 3
  • M. Clarke
    • 4
  • P. Casey
    • 4
  • K. Malone
    • 2
  • A. Lane
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin and St John of God HospitalCo DublinIreland
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin and St Vincent’s HospitalDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin and Mater HospitalDublin 1Ireland
  4. 4.St John of God HospitalCo DublinIreland

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