Mental health literacy about bipolar disorder and schizophrenia among medical students: a comparative study of illness recognition, treatment, and attitudes according to perception of aggressiveness-dangerousness

Ingrid Vargas-Huicochea, Rebeca Robles-García, Carlos Berlanga, Carlos Alfonso Tovilla-Zárate, Nicolás Martínez-López, Ana Fresán



Introduction. Lack of information may result in health professionals’ negative attitudes toward individuals with mental illness.

Objective. We sought to determine the association between the perception of aggressiveness–dangerousness and illness recognition, suggested treatment, and attitudes regarding schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in a group of medical students.

Method. This field study used a non-experimental, cross-sectional comparative design in a purposive sample of medical students. Mental illness recognition, beliefs about adequate treatment, perception of patient’s aggressiveness-dangerousness, and attitudes toward severe mentally ill persons were assessed with previously validated instruments.

Results. Of the 104 participants, 54.8% identified a mental health condition in the schizophrenia vignette compared with only 3.8% in the case of bipolar disorder. Most students believed that both diagnoses could lead to aggressive behaviors. Dangerousness was more frequently perceived in the schizophrenia vignette.

Discussion and conclusion. It is necessary to sensitize and educate medical students so they have accurate information about symptoms and available treatments for individuals with mental illnesses.


Medical students; perception of disease; schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; stigma

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