The Wounded Healer: an effective anti-stigma intervention targeted at the medical profession?

Psychiatr Danub. 2014 Nov:26 Suppl 1:89-96.


Aims: To investigate whether a brief, contact based anti-stigma interventionentitled, 'The Wounded Healer' can positively influence participants' views towards mental health challenges in medical students and doctors. We also wanted to raise awareness of the importance of registering witha General Practitioner (GP) and consulting him/her when under mental distress.

Background: Despite the perception that medical students and doctors should be 'invincible', mental health challenges are common in this population. Doctors and medical students have low levels of help-seeking for their own psychiatric problems often only presenting to mental health services once a crisis arises. Fear of exposure to stigmatization is a critical factor contributing to symptom concealment and is a major barrier to accessing mental health services.

Method: The Wounded Healer was delivered to participants in 6 cohorts across the United Kingdom (UK): Cambridge Medical School (n=97), Manchester Medical School (n=36), Manchester University International Society (n=25), Sheffield Medical School (n=21), Foundation Doctors in the North West of England (n=54) and Southampton Medical School (n=23) (total sample size n=256). Immediately following the intervention, we hand distributed paper questionnaires that contained stigma constructs to each individual participant.Answers were on a Likert-type scale and there was also space for free-text comments which were subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: 174/219 (79.5%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their views towards mental health issues were more positive after the talk. 172/219 (78.5%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the talk made them more understanding and accepting of medical students and doctors with mental illness. 156/219 (71.3%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the talk made them more aware of the importance of registering with a GP and consulting him/her if they felt they were under mental distress.

Conclusion: Following the delivery of the anti-stigma Wounded Healer intervention a majority of respondents stated that they viewed mental health challenges in medical students and doctors in a more positive way. A majority of respondents also demonstrated a better awarenessof registering and consulting a GP if they develop mental distress. Further research which incorporates validated assessments of stigma (at baseline and at follow-up points after the intervention has been delivered), a control group and larger sample sizes are needed to determine if the Wounded Healer intervention can cause a sustained reduction in the stigma associated with mental health challenges in healthcare professionals and encourage help-seeking behaviour for mental health challenges.