Attitudes towards mental illness of nursing students in a Baccalaureate programme in Jamaica: a questionnaire survey


There is longstanding evidence of nurses demonstrating negative attitudes towards people with mental illness. Student nurses' fear or discomfort with mentally ill patients results in poorer outcomes for patients and students' dissatisfaction with their experience of mental health nursing. There is evidence of negative attitudes towards mental illness in the Jamaican society; however, no studies have explored whether these attitudes are held by nursing students. The aim of the study was to examine the attitudes of nursing students towards mental illness. A questionnaire survey was conducted with a convenience sample of 143 third-year nursing students who were enrolled in a baccalaureate programme. Data were collected using the Attitudes Towards Acute Mental Health Scale (ATAMHS). A response rate of 71% was achieved for the survey. The findings indicated that the student nurses held an overall negative attitude towards mental illness, with a general perception that mentally ill people are dangerous. The student nurses were divided in their opinions in a number of areas, suggesting a possible conflict of opinions. Negative attitudes towards mental illness impact client outcomes and the career choices made by nurses. This study provides baseline data within the Jamaican context that adds to the evidence on nursing students' attitude to mental illness. Further research is needed to explore whether nursing education and clinical experience enables student nurses in Jamaica to develop a more positive attitude towards mental illness and mental health nursing and whether cultural factors contribute to negative attitudes.

Accessible summary

  • Negative attitudes towards people with mental illness exist across all nations and cultures. People with mental illness experience the most discrimination from health professionals. This impacts negatively on the illness experience and results in poorer outcomes. The social and political climate and the culture of countries are strong determinants of tolerance and stigma of people with mental illness. The country in which a nurse practices is the most influential factor in predicting their attitudes to mental illness.
  • In Jamaica, the most common response to mental illness is fear of dangerousness; however, in recent years, there has been some improvement in tolerance and attitudes. There are no studies that have explored whether these attitudes are held by nursing students.
  • This paper provides baseline evidence that some student nurses in Jamaica hold negative attitudes towards mental illness, particularly, a perception that people with mental illness are dangerous.
  • Negative attitudes and staff criticism is known to be associated with poorer patient functioning and overall outcomes. Fewer nurses view mental health nursing as a possible career choice.

Bennett, J., & Stennett, R.

Publication Year: 
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 22(8), 599-605
Mental illness