Effects of exposure to mental illness in role-play on undergraduate student attitudes
Background: Education is integral to reducing stigma toward the mentally ill. Medical educators have a key role in delivering education that reduces that stigma. Undergraduate psychiatric training and specific education programs are both effective in reducing stigma. However, many students are exposed to concepts of mental illness at a much earlier stage in their education. No previous study has explored the effect of intervention such as role-play on student attitudinal development. Objectives: This study's objective was to identify whether undergraduate role-play exercises featuring mental illness influenced development of attitudes toward the mentally ill. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was used to compare attitudinal scores between students exposed to a mental illness role-play as part of routine teaching and a control group that did not receive the teaching. Results: A total of 332 students provided data. There were no between-group differences for any attitudinal scores, although gender (being female) and experience of mental illness were associated with more positive attitudinal scores. Conclusions: Single high-intensity routine teaching sessions such as role-play involving metal illness do not influence student attitudes.