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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00775

There’s a limit to your Openness: Mental illness stigma mediates effects of individual traits on preference for psychiatry specialty

 Edita Fino1, 2*,  Alessandro Agostini2, Michela Mazzetti2,  Valentina Colonnello2, Elisa Caponera3 and  Paolo M. Russo2
  • 1University of Bologna, Italy
  • 2Department of Diagnostic and Experimental Medicine, University of Bologna, Italy
  • 3Istituto nazionale per la valutazione del sistema educativo di istruzione e di formazione (INVALSI), Italy

Objective: The widening gap between the need for mental health professionals and low percentages of medical students pursuing psychiatric career, urges an examination of how individual traits and attitudes interact in order to better explain the variance in preference for psychiatry as a specialty choice.
Methods: The target population included medical students attending the second year of medical education program, at Bologna University. Participants completed an online questionnaire evaluating preference for psychiatry specialty (one single item and a scenario based response), personality traits (the Big Five Questionnaire), attitudes (Mental Illness for Clinician, MICA-2), behaviors (Reported and Intended Behavior Scale, RIBS) and fears towards mental illness (questionnaire created ad hoc). Socio-demographic data were also collected.
Results: A total of 284 medical students (58.8% female, mean (SD) age 20.47± 1.90) completed the questionnaire. Preference for psychiatry specialty, was significantly and positively associated with Openness to experience, and negatively related with MICA-2 and RIBS. The full mediation model provided good indices explaining 18 % of the variance. Mental illness stigma was strongly and negatively associated with both openness to experience and preference for psychiatry and the mediation results evidenced a positive and significant effect.
Conclusions: Mental illness stigma influences psychiatry choice netting out effects of openness to experience. Stigma awareness and reduction programs should be introduced as early as possible in medical education.

Keywords: Mental illness stigma, personality traits, Openness to experience, psychiatry specialty, Medical students

Received: 03 May 2019; Accepted: 26 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Fino, Agostini, Mazzetti, Colonnello, Caponera and Russo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Edita Fino, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, edita.fino@unibo.it