Intended for healthcare professionals


Doctors must stop stigmatising mental health, says BMA

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 28 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j3138
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

The BMA will create a national campaign to eliminate mental health stigma among doctors, after a vote at its annual representative meeting.

On 28 June delegates at the meeting in Bournemouth voted in favour of the motion, which also stated that parity between physical and mental health would be achieved only if “the stigma against mental health problems among medical professionals is addressed.”

Ryan Devlin, a junior doctor who proposed the motion, said that the health inequalities faced by people with mental health conditions can be worsened by health professionals. “Health professionals, medical students, and doctors [can] believe that those living with mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia are a danger to others, are unpredictable, are hard to talk to,” he said. “How can we help people when we cannot even speak to them?”

Devlin said that the amount of mental health training he had received during one year in medical school could have fitted into a day. “Medical students are more likely to find it difficult to interact with someone who is mentally ill, and this can affect future practice,” he said.

Eleanor Price, a medical student, discussed her own experiences as a trainee doctor with mental illness. “I am sorry to say that, for some of my student colleagues, psychiatric patients are still a source of amusement and disdain. Frankly, in my experience, the profession as a whole is very much pervaded by ignorance regarding the needs and abilities of doctors with mental health problems,” she said.

Price added, “I am tired of being too frightened to discuss my health with supervisors and colleagues, I am tired of people who should know better informing me of my alleged limitations due to disability.

“Furthermore, I am extremely concerned that, owing to the rapidly increasing erosion of doctors’ working rights, when I graduate I will enter a profession that will make me ill, with a membership that will not support me.”