Does psychiatry have an image problem?

In March 2013 the Academy released a report, ‘Strengthening academic psychiatry‘, that called for the breakdown of unhelpful boundaries between psychiatry and neuroscience, and made recommendations to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental ill health.

Mental ill health accounts for some 15% of the disease burden in developed countries, yet spending on mental health research makes up just 5% of total UK health research expenditure and psychiatry has been identified as a vulnerable clinical discipline.

At the launch of the report, Sir David Carter FRSE FMedSci, Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh, formerly Chief Medical Officer of Scotland and Chair of the working group remarked, ‘Psychiatry has an image problem. It is commonly perceived to be isolated from the rest of medicine, not sufficiently scientific and working with stigmatised patients who present a difficult therapeutic challenge. This may be discouraging students from pursuing a career in psychiatry, which could have negative repercussions for the future of mental health research.’

Our report found that medical students are often unaware of the opportunities presented by psychiatry and the clinical neurosciences, as well as their close connections to a wide range of other disciplines, including neurology, paediatrics, care of the elderly and infectious diseases.  We highlighted a need to increase research capacity and innovation, build support for multidisciplinary research groups and enhance clinical and research training for trainee psychiatrists.

The report also recommended that academic psychiatrists should work closely with the NHS to conduct large-scale studies to improve our understanding of mental health and its treatment, and with industry to develop novel therapies.

The Academy is working to ensure that this report resonates with policy makers and that its recommendations are completed. Since the launch the Academy President has hosted a high-level stakeholder meeting to discuss implementation of the recommendations. Attendees included the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the General Medical Council, the NIHR, the Association of British Neurologists, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Schools Council. A report that highlights agreed action points for organisations to take is in production and will be published soon. We will complete a progress review of this report with stakeholders in 12 to 18 months time.

Back to home