Laura Witte, PhD, PA-C
Purpose: The purpose of this article is to perform a qualitative review of the existing literature on methods for the reduction of stigma against persons with mental illness among physician assistant (PA) students and related health professions.
Methods: An electronic search was conducted using PubMed and search terms “stigma,” “mental illness” or “mental disorder” or “psychiatric” or “psychiatry,” “education,” and “physician assistant” or “medical.” Articles that were not pertaining to health professional programs, pertaining to children and adolescents, and that were not directly related to stigma reduction measures were excluded. The articles were summarized and qualitatively synthesized.
Results: Twenty-four studies were identified for inclusion in this literature review with outcome measures identifying mixed results regarding their efficacy. Traditional education interventions alone such as psychiatric didactic teaching and clerkships revealed mixed results in their ability to decrease stigma. Specialized education interventions, patient panels, multifaceted approaches, student reflective practice, and faculty and peer self-disclosure had more promising evidence for the ability to reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Conclusion: Best practices for stigma reduction measures in PA education are to include a mix of educational and experiential learning opportunities beyond traditional education interventions for mental illness. While traditional educational intervention for mental illness lay important groundwork, contact-based experiences with persons with mental illness, appears to be of great importance in lessening stigma as well as a PA program culture that is supportive of students’ and faculty’s mental wellness.
Stringer S. Strategies to Decrease the Stigma of Mental Illness in Physician Assistant Education. University of Lynchburg DMSc Doctoral Project Assignment Repository. 2022; 4(3).
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