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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 53 (2011) 12, 885 - 894

Review article

Stigmatisation of psychiatric patients by general practitioners and medical students: a review of the literature

K. Adriaensen, G. Pieters, J. De Lepeleire

background In clinical practice general practitioners (gps) and society tend to stigmatise patients with psychiatric problems.
aim To attempt to describe this stigmatisation by gps and medical students on the basis of information given in the literature.
method We searched the literature via PubMed using mesh terms: ‘family practice’,‘physicians’, ‘family’, ‘mental disorder’, ‘attitude’ and ‘psychiatry’ and the word ‘stigma’. In addition, literature was supplied by experts and articles were located by the snowball method.
results Stigmatisation constitutes a major obstacle in the psychiatric and somatic care that gps provide for patients with a psychiatric disorder. Although such patients have a higher somatic vulnerability as a result of their psychiatric problems, they receive fewer technical and exploratory investigations than other categories of patients. Medical students too have a negative attitude towards patients with a psychiatric disorder. More education and training could lead to less stigmatisation but the effect would probably be only temporary. Personal experience is the main factor that leads to greater empathy.
conclusion The literature suggests that psychiatric patients are victims of self-inflicted stigmatisation and stigmatisation by society and doctors. This leads to social exclusion and poorer healthcare. By tackling the problem of stigmatisation we could greatly improve the quality of life and healthcare for this group of patients.

keywords attitude, family doctors, family practice, gps, mental disorders, psychiatry, stigma