Mental Health Literacy of Pharmacy Students Compared to Nursing and Medical Students

  • Radhika Devraj Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy
  • Gireesh V Gupchup Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy
  • David Henson
Keywords: mental health literacy, knowledge, health professional students


Objectives:  To determine and compare the mental health literacy of pharmacy, nursing, and medical students. 

Methods: Pharmacy, nursing, and medical students in the final year of their didactic program were administered a widely used mental health literacy questionnaire either via paper (nursing) or via email (pharmacy and medicine). For email questionnaires, weekly reminder emails with links for survey completion were sent over a three-week period.  The questionnaire consisted of a vignette describing either depression or schizophrenia followed by items about helpfulness of a variety of interventions, medications, and activities.  Depression and schizophrenia versions of the questionnaire were randomly administered to respondents in the three programs such that respondents received either male (John) or female (Jane) versions of the vignettes. 

Results:  A total of 161 out of 253 potential students responded to the survey (63.6% response rate).   Majority of the respondents were female (75%), white (84.6%), had currently or in the past year interacted with people diagnosed with mental disorders (90%), and had multiple opportunities for exposure to mental health content in their coursework (49%). While a majority of respondents in all three programs correctly identified the vignettes as either depression (87%) or schizophrenia (73%), depression was identified correctly by a greater percent of those in pharmacy (88.5%) and nursing (88.4%), and schizophrenia was identified by a greater percent in medicine (82%).  However, there were no significant differences by program type for correct identification of vignette.  Helpfulness of various interventions, medications, and activities did not differ significantly for the depression vignette.  Two significant differences by program type were noted for the schizophrenia vignette.  A larger percent (72%) of nursing students perceived antidepressants as helpful for schizophrenia as compared to pharmacy (55%) and medical (18%) students.  Students from all three programs responded similarly to the question on likely prognosis for those with depression/schizophrenia, both with and without professional help (p>0.01). 

Conclusions:  Majority of students in each discipline were able to correctly identify patients with depression or schizophrenia and have similar levels of mental health literacy.  The profile of responses suggest that pharmacy and nursing students were more clear about helpfulness of interventions for depression, than for schizophrenia.  Given the extent of the problem of mental health, additional and continuously reinforced training on mental health throughout the four-year curriculum is necessary for first line providers such as pharmacists, nurses, and physicians. 


Article Type: Original Research

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Received 2019-06-21
Accepted 2019-09-06
Published 2019-10-31
Pharmacy Practice & Practice-Based Research