The Potential Effect of the Psychiatric Clerkship and Contact-Based Hypothesis on Explicit and Implicit Stigmatizing Attitudes of Canadian Medical Students Towards Mental Illness

  • Anish AroraEmail author
  • Harman S. Sandhu
  • Jennifer Brasch
In Brief Report



The purpose of this study was to assess if having completed a psychiatric clerkship or having increased exposure to mental illness in general was associated with reduced explicit and implicit stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness in undergraduate medical students.


A secondary analysis of data specific to medical students from McMaster University was completed. Data were obtained through a cross-sectional survey administered electronically. It consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Opening Minds Scale for Healthcare Providers (OMS-HC) 12-item survey, and an Implicit Association Test (IAT). The OMS-HC was used as a measure of explicit stigmatizing attitudes, whereas the IAT was used as a measure of implicit bias. All analyses were completed using Stata/IC 15 and were two-tailed with significance defined as p < 0.05.


Individuals that self-reported either having had a mental illness or diagnosis by a health care professional had significantly lower levels of explicit stigma. Final-year medical students had significantly lower levels of implicit stigmatizing attitudes than first-year medical students. Neither having completed a psychiatric clerkship nor having a close relationship with someone experiencing a mental illness was significantly associated with the explicit or implicit stigmatizing attitudes of medical students.


More years in medical school and self-identifying or receiving a diagnosis of mental illness are associated with reduced stigmatizing attitudes, whereas having completed the psychiatric clerkship and having a close relationship with an individual experiencing mental illness were not. This study suggests that the psychiatric clerkship may have limited impact on the stigmatizing attitudes of medical students.


Psychiatric clerkship Contact-based hypothesis Mental illness Stigma Medical students 



We would like to acknowledge the support of all departments and faculties that assisted in data collection for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study presents the secondary analysis of data that was collected from a study that was approved by the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (Project ID 1786).


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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