Advances in treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness (PWMI) have generally improved their well-being. However, some people, most especially the lay public and no-psychiatric health workers still hold a lot of reservation about the effectiveness of such management interventions. Thus, this study set out to explore medical students’ beliefs about treatment and rehabilitation of PWMI. A descriptive and cross-sectional study carried out among medical students of the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL), Lagos, Nigeria. Subjects were selected through multistage and systematic random sampling techniques, with age and sex-matched controls selected among dental students. They were evaluated with a questionnaire adapted from an instrument earlier used by Sechrest et al. (1973) on cross-cultural study of attitude to mental illness among university students. A total of 130 medical students (subjects) and 57 controls (dental students) were studied. The mean age of subjects was 23.2 ± 3.0 years. Varying beliefs about mental illness (MI) were expressed by both subjects and controls. One hundred and seventeen (90%) of subjects and 46 (80.7%) of controls believed PWMI can be effectively treated and most of them believed orthodox treatment to be the important one. On rehabilitation, 8 (6.2%) of subjects and 3 (5.3%) of controls believed treated PWMI should not be allowed to marry (X2 =9.28, DF=4, p=0.05*). Ninety eight (75.4%) of subjects and 40 (70.2%) of controls believed treated PWMI should have chance of securing jobs. When stratified to pre-clinical and clinical levels of study, 68 (65.4%) of preclinical and 24 (10.9%) clinical students believed PWMI should be kept away from the community (X2=24.90, DF=4, p<0.01*). The study has found varying beliefs of the subjects about treatment and rehabilitation of PWMI, most of which are favourable. However, there is still need to emphasize on anti-stigma education on the subjects over their perceived negative beliefs about psychiatry.
Key words: Beliefs; treatment and rehabilitation; mental illness; medical students, Nigeria
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