Attitudes towards mental illness: testing the contact hypothesis among Chinese student nurses in Hong Kong

P Callaghan, C S Shan, L S Yu, L W Ching, T L Kwan
Journal of Advanced Nursing 1997, 26 (1): 33-40
This study investigated whether previous contact with mental illness affected the attitudes to mental illness (AMI) of general student nurses in Hong Kong-the contact hypothesis. We employed a quasi-experimental design. We compared the attitudes to mental illness of students who had previous contact with mental illness through having taken a psychiatric secondment with those who had not taken a psychiatric secondment. Also, we compared the AMI of: students who had taken other courses related to mental illness with those who had not; those who had a family history of mental illness with those who had not; and those who lived with a mentally ill relative with those who did not. We found that previous contact with mental illness had no significant effect on the attitudes to mental illness of the students. In other words our findings do not support the contact hypothesis. Our sample expressed positive general attitudes to mental illness when presented with general issues about mental illness. However, their attitudes were less positive when presented with specific issues about mental illness that might impinge upon their daily lives. We discuss the implications of these findings for mental health nursing practice, education and research.

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