Skip to main content

Attitudes towards mental disorders and emotional empathy in mental health and other healthcare professionals

  • Georgina Gateshill (a1), Kate Kucharska-Pietura (a1) and John Wattis (a2)
Aims and method

To compare attitudes towards mental disorders in professionals working in mental health and professionals working in different areas of medicine. Levels of emotional empathy in both groups were also investigated. In total, 58 mental healthcare professionals and 60 non-mental healthcare professionals completed our attitudes towards mental disorders questionnaire and Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale.


The results reveal generally positive attitudes towards people with mental disorders in both groups. Non-mental healthcare professionals regarded people with a mental disorder as significantly more dangerous and unpredictable than did mental healthcare professionals. There was no statistically significant difference in emotional empathy between the two groups. Both groups cited illicit drug use as one of the most significant causes of mental disorder.

Clinical implications

Mental healthcare professionals and non-mental healthcare professionals show broadly similar attitudes and a similar degree of empathy towards people with a mental disorder. However, non-mental healthcare professionals regard people with mental health problems as significantly more dangerous and unpredictable. There is scope for further research including examining the effects of educational interventions.

Corresponding author
Georgina Gateshill (
Hide All

Declaration of interest


Hide All
1 Mehta, N, Kassam, A, Leese, M, Butler, G, Thornicroft, G. Public attitudes towards people with mental illness in England and Scotland, 1994–2003. Br J Psychiatry 2009; 194: 278–84.
2 Jorm, AF. Mental health literacy: Public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. Br J Psychiatry 2000; 177: 396401.
3 Schomerus, G, Angelmeyer, MC. Stigma and its impact on help-seeking for mental disorders: what do we know? Epidemiol Psychiatry Soc 2008; 17: 31–7.
4 Dyduch, A, Grzywa, A. Stigma and related factors basing on mental illness stigma [article in Polish]. Pol Merkur Lekarski 2009; 26 (153): 263–7.
5 Wolff, G, Pathare, S, Craig, T, Leff, J. Community knowledge of mental illness and reaction to mentally ill people. Br J Psychiatry 1996; 168: 191–8.
6 Addison, SJ, Thorpe, SJ. Factors involved in the formation of attitudes towards those who are mentally ill. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2004; 39: 228–34.
7 Ng, SL, Martin, JL, Romans, SE. A community's attitude towards the mentally ill. NZ Med J 1995; 108: 505–8.
8 Bjorkman, T, Angelman, T, Jonsson, M. Attitudes towards people with a mental illness: a cross-sectional study among nursing staff in psychiatric and somatic care. Scand J Caring Sci 2008; 22: 170–7.
9 Pejovic-Miloveancivic, M, Lecic-Tosevski, D, Tenjovic, L, Draganic-Gajic, S, Christodoulou, GN, Stepanovic, J. Attitudes of psychiatry residents towards mental illness. Med Pregl 2007; 60: 382–6.
10 Vibha, P, Saddichha, S, Kumar, R. Attitudes of ward attendants towards mental illness: comparisons and predictors. Int J Soc Psychiatry 2008; 54: 469–78.
11 Gowers, SG, Shore, A. The stigma of eating disorders. Int J Clin Pract. 1999; 53: 386–8.
12 Naylor, PB, Cowie, HA, Walters, SJ, Talamelli, L, Dawkins, J. Impact of a mental health teaching programme on adolescents. Br J Psychiatry 2009; 194: 365–70.
13 Mehrabian, A. Manual for the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES). Available from Albert Mehrabian, 1130 Alta Mesa Road, Monterey, CA 93940, USA.
14 Mehrabian, A, Epstein, N. A measure of emotional empathy. J Pers 1972; 40: 525–43.
15 Chlopan, BE, McCain, ML, Carbonell, JL, Hagen, RL. Empathy: review of available mearsures. J Pers Soc Psychol 1985; 48: 635–53.
16 Mehrabian, A, Young, AL, Sato, S. Emotional empathy and associated individual differences. Curr Psychol Res Rev 1988; 7: 221–40.
17 Mehrabian, A. Analysis of affiliation-related traits in terms of the PAD Temperament Model. J Psychol 1997; 131: 101–17.
18 Mehrabian, A. Beyond IQ: broad-based measurement of individual success potential or emotional intelligence. Genet Soc Gen Psych 2000; 126: 133239.
19 Surgladze, SA, Young, AW, Senior, C, Brebion, G, Travis, MJ, Phillips, ML. Recognition accuracy and response bias to happy and sad facial expressions in patients with major depression. Neuropscyhology 2004; 18: 212–8.
20 Hugo, M. Mental health professionals' attitudes towards people who have experienced a mental health disorder. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs 2001; 8: 419–25.
21 Jorm, AF, Korten, AE, Jacomb, PA, Christensen, H, Henderson, S. Attitudes towards people with a mental disorder: a survey of the Australian public and health professionals. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 1999; 33: 7783.
22 Rao, H, Mahadevappa, H, Pillay, P, Sessay, M, Abraham, A, Luty, J. A study of stigmatized attitudes towards people with mental health problems among health professionals. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs 2009; 16: 279–84.
23 Fleming, J, Szmukler, GI. Attitudes of medical professionals towards patients with eating disorders. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 1992; 26: 436–43.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 92 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 444 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 2nd January 2018 - 19th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Attitudes towards mental disorders and emotional empathy in mental health and other healthcare professionals

  • Georgina Gateshill (a1), Kate Kucharska-Pietura (a1) and John Wattis (a2)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *