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Stigma towards mental illness among medical and nursing students in Singapore: a cross-sectional study

05 Dec 2017

Objectives

To assess stigma towards people with mental illness among Singapore medical and nursing students using the Opening Minds Stigma Scale for Health Care Providers (OMS-HC), and to examine the relationship of students’ stigmatising attitudes with sociodemographic and education factors.

Design and setting

Cross-sectional study conducted in Singapore

Participants

The study was conducted among 1002 healthcare (502 medical and 500 nursing) students during April to September 2016. Students had to be Singapore citizens or permanent residents and enrolled in public educational institutions to be included in the study. The mean (SD) age of the participants was 21.3 (3.3) years, with the majority being females (71.1%). 75.2% of the participants were Chinese, 14.1% were Malays, and 10.7% were either Indians or of other ethnicity.

Methods

Factor analysis was conducted to validate the OMS-HC scale in the study sample and to examine its factor structure. Descriptive statistics and multivariate linear regression were used to examine sociodemographic and education correlates.

Results

Factor analysis revealed a three-factor structure with 14 items. The factors were labelled as attitudes towards help-seeking and people with mental illness, social distance and disclosure. Multivariable linear regression analysis showed that medical students were found to be associated with lower total OMS-HC scores (P<0.05), less negative attitudes (P<0.001) and greater disclosure (P<0.05) than nursing students. Students who had a monthly household income of below S$4000 had more unfavourable attitudes than those with an income of SGD$10 000 and above (P<0.05). Having attended clinical placement was associated with more negative attitudes (P<0.05) among the students.

Conclusion

Healthcare students generally possessed positive attitudes towards help-seeking and persons with mental illness, though they preferred not to disclose their own mental health condition. Academic curriculum may need to enhance the component of mental health training, particularly on reducing stigma in certain groups of students.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open

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