To investigate the attitudes that psychiatrists hold towards people with mental illness. Each member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK was sent a questionnaire based on previous research in this area, supplemented with relevant questions on management.
2813 of 6524 questionnaires were returned (43%). Psychiatrists' attitudes compared favourably with those of the general population. Among other findings, they believed that the risk of dangerousness was overemphasised, that misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in Black people is common, and that polypharmacy and the use of antipsychotic medication above British National Formulary levels occurs too often.
Psychiatrists' attitudes are substantially more favourable towards people with mental illness than those of the general population with individual, but important, exceptions. Some aspects of psychiatric management, especially of antipsychotic medication, may undermine this, however. Comparison with other groups, e.g. general practitioners, nurses and social workers, would be useful in planning how to reduce the stigmatisation of people with mental illness.
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