The stigma of mental illness causes delays in seeking help, and often compromises victims’ therapeutic relationships with healthcare providers. The knowledge, attitudes, and behavioural responses of future healthcare professionals toward individuals with mental illnesses are explored here to suggest steps that will reduce mental illness stigma in healthcare providers. Methods:
A generic qualitative approach—Qualitative Description—was used. Eighteen students from nine healthcare programs at a Canadian University participated in individual semi-structured interviews. Participants answered questions regarding their knowledge, attitudes, and behavioural responses towards individuals with mental illnesses. Thematic content analysis guided the data analysis. Results:
Four main themes were constructed from the data: positive and negative general perceptions toward mental illness; contact experiences with mental illnesses; mental illness in a healthcare setting; and learning about mental illness in healthcare academia. Conclusions:
Students showed well-rounded mental health knowledge and mostly positive behaviours toward individuals with mental illnesses. However, some students hold stigmatizing attitudes and do not feel prepared through their academic experiences to work with individuals with mental illnesses. Mental health education can reduce the stigma toward mental illness and improve the care delivered by healthcare professionals.
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