Improved attitudes to psychiatry: A global mental health peer-to-peer E-learning partnership
© 2014 Academic Psychiatry. Objective: Health links aim to strengthen healthcare systems in low and middle-income countries through mutual exchange of skills, knowledge, and experience. However, student participation remains limited despite growing educational emphasis upon global health. Medical students continue to report negative attitudes to psychiatry in high-income countries, and in Somaliland, the lack of public sector psychiatrists limits medical students' awareness of mental healthcare. The authors describe the design, implementation, and mixed-methods analysis of a peer-to-peer psychiatry e-learning partnership between UK and Somaliland students arising from a global mental health link between the two countries. Methods: Medical students at King's College London and Hargeisa and Amoud universities, Somaliland, were grouped into 24 pairs. Participants aimed to complete ten fortnightly meetings to discuss psychiatry topics via the website MedicineAfrica. Students completed initial and final evaluations including Attitudes toward Psychiatry (ATP-30) questions, a stigma questionnaire, and brief evaluations after each meeting. Results: Quantitative findings demonstrated that enjoyment, interest, and academic helpfulness were rated highly by students in Somaliland and moderately by students in the UK. Somaliland students' attitudes to psychiatry were significantly more positive post-participation, whereas UK students' attitudes remained stable. Qualitative findings identified more gains in factual knowledge for Somaliland students, whereas UK students reported more cross-cultural learning. Reasons for non-completion and student-suggested improvements emphasized the need to ensure commitment to the program by participants. Conclusions: This partnership encouraged students to consider global mental health outside the standard medical education environment, through an e-learning format solely utilizing existing resources. This new approach demonstrates potential benefits to students in contrasting locations of brief, focused online peer-to-peer education partnerships, expanding the scope of health links to the medical professionals of the future.