Psychiatrists have more positive attitude towards mentally ill
By Ashwin, UK Correspondent
Nov 4, 2004, 15:33

Psychiatrists' attitudes are substantially more favourable towards people with mental illness than those of the general population, a new survey published in the November issue of the Psychiatric Bulletin has found.
This was particularly true for schizophrenia, where psychiatrists believe that the risk of dangerousness was overemphasised.

But despite being prescribers themselves, many psychiatrists believe that antipsychotic medication is prescribed in too high doses (above British National Formulary limits), too often.

Similarly, many consider that prescribing more than one drug together (usually antipsychotics and anti-Parkinson's disease medication) is also too common.

All members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists were sent a questionnaire based on previous research into attitudes towards people with mental illness. Questions on management were also included.

The response rate was 43%. 65% of respondents were consultants; 22% trainees; and 7% other grades.

A large majority of psychiatrists (95.2%) believed that people with mental illness are far less of a danger than most people suppose.

A small majority (53.5%) believed that the causes of schizophrenia are a balance of both social and biological factors, compared with primarily biological factors (46.1%). This finding reflects the continuing debate within the profession.

Misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in Black people is considered common by nearly half of psychiatrists (47.9%).

Most psychiatrists believed that discussing the contents of delusions and hallucinations is appropriate (90.6%), which is consistent with the increased evidence for psychological treatments of schizophrenia.

80.7% of psychiatrists considered family therapy to be effective in schizophrenia.

Most women who were once patients in a mental hospital can be trusted as babysitters according to 60% of psychiatrists, but only 19% of the general population.

Mental hospitals were not considered outdated by professionals, though less so by consultants and those qualified longer as psychiatrists. By contrast, more members of the general public felt that psychiatric hospitals were outdated.

Psychiatrists did seem generally to hold non-stigmatising views compared with the general population, and were more optimistic about recovery from mental illness than the public.

The authors of the study conclude that psychiatrists are well placed to take leading roles in combating stigmatisation.

Similar research among other groups, such as general practitioners, nurses, social workers and politicians, could improve the focus and impact of anti-stigma campaigns.

Kingdon D, Sharma T, Hart D and the Schizophrenia Subgroup of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Changing Minds Campaign (2004) What attitudes do psychiatrists hold towards people with mental illness? Psychiatric Bulletin, 28, 401-406

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