One objective of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' stigma campaign is to improve the public's knowledge about psychiatric illness. There has been little work in the UK on the public's knowledge of the training of psychiatrists and the treatments they use. Using a questionnaire, we compared a sample representing the general population (n=223) with a sample attending psychiatric outpatients (n=67) to assess their level of knowledge.
Half of the general population sample did not know that psychiatrists were medically qualified, and 80% underestimated the length of psychiatric training. There was variable knowledge of the conditions treated by psychiatrists and treatment methods used, with the outpatient group having better knowledge of drug treatments.
If the general public do not know about the training and expertise of psychiatrists, this is likely to limit their willingness to seek treatment for mental illness.
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