The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is evaluating a special, required course for second-year medical students designed to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, through contact-based education with people with lived experience, lectures and visits with practicing psychiatrists. The University of Calgary has partnered with MHCC to have the “Mind Course” evaluated as part of the inventory of programs being studied as a part of the MHCC 10-year anti-stigma/ anti-discrimination initiative, “Opening Minds.”
The three-week program includes visits to a hospital with practicing psychiatrists, and lectures about specific illnesses coupled with guest speakers who share stories of their recovery and management of their mental illness.
The impact of the program has demonstrated an attitude shift among students: 89 percent thought the course was useful in reducing prejudice and discrimination against people with a mental illness. Two-thirds of students anticipated that their own behaviour towards mental health patients would change. The course has inspired some students to pursue psychiatry.
Only a small proportion of medical school graduates in Canada (below six percent) apply to a psychiatric residency program. The University of Calgary boasts a figure nearly three times this level (almost 18 percent).
Regardless of a student’s choice in medical specialization, the Mind Course provides an opportunity for students to become more comfortable interacting with patients with a mental illness. The class has been ranked as favourite among the University of Calgary medical school students for eight of the last nine years.
To read the news release, “Mind Course Targets Stigma among Medical Students,” June 30, 2011, go to www.mentalhealthcommission.ca.