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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Royal College calls for an end to ‘Bashing’ Psychiatrists

Royal College calls for an end to ‘Bashing’ Psychiatrists

The stigma surrounding psychiatry doesn’t begin and end with the experiences of patients; doctors too experience stigmatisation – for deciding to become psychiatrists.

Medical students and trainee doctors are reporting that the badmouthing of certain medical disciplines is impacting on their freedom to choose psychiatry as a speciality, and the higher echelons of this specialist branch of medicine are fighting back.

President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely is launching a campaign to support medical students and trainee doctors by exposing the practice of badmouthing - known as ‘bashing’ - that threatens to deplete an already under-subscribed medical specialism. A paper published in BJPsych Bulletin online describes the practice and the impact it is having on young medics and the medical profession.

Choosing a career specialty is one of the most important decisions that any medical student will make and one that will shape the rest of their working lives. Some students decide early on, or even enter medical school with a good idea of what career they would like to pursue. For most however, the specialty choice is made during medical school, with some remaining unsure into their final year and even as foundation year doctors.

This choice is influenced by many factors, in particular the teachers the students encounter, experience during clinical placements, desired work-life balance, and also by gender and personality.

In one large US study, 76% of students had heard badmouthing of their career choice specialty and 17% stated that this had made them alter their career choices.

In a more recent survey of third-year US students, family medicine was the most ‘bashed’ specialty but psychiatry was not far behind with 39% of students stating that they had heard disparaging comments about psychiatry.

Psychiatry continues to face a worldwide problem with recruitment. In the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has maintained an active recruitment programme for several years, but rates of students interested in psychiatry as a career remain at 4-5%; insufficient to meet future needs.

The authors of the BJPsych Bulletin paper developed an online questionnaire-study to ascertain the prevalence and impact of ‘bashing’ in the UK, and a total of 960 medical students completed the survey. From the list of eight medical specialties provided, students reported that both psychiatry and general practice attracted the greatest number of negative comments.

Although 80.5% of students condemned badmouthing as being unprofessional, 71.5% believed it to be an ever present part of practising medicine. 57.3% viewed it as ‘just a bit of fun’ but nearly three quarters (74.0%) agreed that there is an unspoken hierarchy of specialties in medicine.

Overall, 27.0% of students agreed that they had in fact changed their career choice as a direct result of negative comments made about them.

Professor Wessely said:

“There is no psychiatrist in the land who cannot remember the reactions they received from some colleagues - especially the senior ones - when they announced that they wanted to pursue a career in psychiatry.  A bit of humour is all very well, but behind this is something unacceptable – an implication that the best and brightest doctors are somehow wasting their time in psychiatry. This has to stop, and this campaign is going to do that. People with mental disorders - just like those with physical disorders - deserve the best minds to find new treatments and provide the best care.”

He will launch the campaign on Saturday 27 February at the National Student Psychiatry Conference 2016 in Edinburgh.


For further information, please contact:
Hannah Perlin
Senior Communications Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2738
Nick Hodgson
Media Manager 
Telephone: 0203 701 2593
Twitter: @rcpsych
Out-of-hours contact number: 07860 755896


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