• The Effects of Stigma Toward Mental Illness on Family Physicians

      Sipe, Michelle; The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix; Goto, Kristine (The University of Arizona., 2016-03-25)
      Many individuals utilize primary care as their main source of mental health care, as in many areas of the US access to specialized psychiatric care does not meet the demand. Prior research has showed that many healthcare practitioners, including those working in generalist fields, carry stigmatized views about individuals with mental illness. Such stigmatized views can result in misattribution of symptoms to mental illness and a decline in proper diagnosis and treatment. Our study aims to examine if stigmatized views about mental illness relate to family medicine physicians’ comfort levels with treating mental illness, patterns of referral to psychiatrists, or amount of continuing medical education on psychiatric issues. Our hypothesis is that family medicine physicians who carry less stigmatized views will be more comfortable and up to date with psychiatric care practices and less likely to refer mental health issues to specialized mental health services. Methods: We administered an email survey to family medicine physicians via the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians monthly electronic newsletter. The survey contained demographic questions, a short (5‐question) validated stigma questionnaire (Attitudes to Mental Illness Questionnaire or AMIQ), and questions regarding self‐stated comfort level with mental illness, amount of recent mental‐health CME, and likelihood of referral for various mental illnesses. Results: AMIQ stigma ratings and referral rates for anxiety were significantly related (p=.012), as were AMIQ stigma ratings and amount of mental health CME (p=.001). Other trends were discovered, but were not significant. Impact: These results further demonstrate the need for increased emphasis on psychosocial and psychiatric issues, particularly stigma reduction, in family medicine residency training and CME. If family medicine physicians with high levels of stigma are less likely to treat mentally ill patients or seek further education regarding psychiatric issues, it could disrupt their patients’ quality, cost, and continuity of care.