Faculty Disclosure of Personal Mental Health History and Resident Physician Perceptions of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Brianna E. Vaa Stelling, Colin P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem Distress, depression, and burnout are common during medical training. Stigma surrounding seeking help for mental illness during medical training may involve fear of negative peer perceptions, academic jeopardy, and adverse future career consequences. Faculty disclosure of personal mental health illness may reduce stigma surrounding mental health disorders and reassure and encourage trainees to seek help when needed. Approach The authors aimed to assess the impact of faculty disclosure of mental health issues on stigma toward help-seeking during training, self-reflection about mental health, and resident physician awareness of mental health resources. Three self-selected faculty members shared their personal experiences with depression and mental health during a confidential noon conference intended for internal medicine residents at Mayo Clinic Rochester as part of their core curriculum in December 2016. Institutional and community mental health resources were provided. After the conference, attendees completed an anonymous survey assessing self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding mental health during medical training. Outcomes One hundred percent of residents (39/39) agreed that they enjoyed the conference. Thirty-five of 39 (89.7%) respondents agreed that their knowledge of available mental health resources increased and 33/39 (84.6%) agreed they were more likely to pursue mental health resources after attending the conference. Thirty-eight of 39 (97.4%) residents agreed that faculty sharing their personal struggles destigmatizes mental health issues during training, and the same percentage reported engaging in postconference self-reflection regarding their own mental health and well-being. Next Steps Resident conference sessions during which faculty self-disclose personal mental health experiences may help decrease the stigma of mental health issues during medical training and increase the likelihood residents will seek assistance when needed. The authors encourage further study of longer-Term outcomes and actual help-seeking behaviors across learner levels and training environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)682-685
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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