Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)



First Advisor

Kirsten Wilkins


The mental health of physicians and medical students, particularly rates of burnout, major depression, and suicide, has become an area of interest in the literature. Increased awareness and activism surrounding these issues have led some physicians and medical students to share their personal stories of mental illness. Little is known about how self-disclosures of mental illness are perceived by the medical community at large. We surveyed the student body at Yale School of Medicine to assess their attitudes toward physicians or medical student colleagues who choose to disclose mental illness, and to identify any demographic factors or previous mental health experiences of the respondents that predicted disclosure attitudes. Linear regression showed that less stigmatizing beliefs toward physicians with a mental health condition independently predicted more favorable attitudes toward disclosure (β=.54, t=9.35, p <0.0001). Liberal political beliefs also predicted more favorable disclosure attitudes (β=.25, t=4.17, p <0.0001). Overall, medical students viewed disclosure favorably, with 81.6% agreeing that they would have positive feelings if a physician or medical student peer opened up to them about mental illness. 87.1% believed that disclosure by another physician or medical student could encourage others to seek mental health treatment. However, respondents also endorsed concerns about the potential risks of disclosure, with 46.1% agreeing that it is not worth the professional risk to disclose mental illness unless absolutely necessary. Disclosure that occurred outside of a public arena was perceived more favorably, such as a presentation to medical students or residents or a peer-reviewed journal article, versus social media or a patient encounter.


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