Pharmacy Students’ Views Regarding Working With People Living With Mental Illness: the Interaction Between Stigma and Preparedness for Practice

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


Mental illness is common and stigma surrounding it can have profound effects on those who experience it. Research in pharmacy education has been predominantly quantitative in nature, demonstrating stigmatising views among pharmacy students. This study examined the subjective experience of fourteen pharmacy students and four recent graduates from one UK university. The aim of the research was to explore pharmacy students’ views towards people with mental illness and how this interacts with their preparedness for future practice, in order to inform pharmacy curricula to better prepare students for working with people living with mental illness (PMI). Using a methodology informed by constructivist grounded theory, the study generated qualitative data which were used to develop rich understanding of the problem of mental illness stigma in this context of future pharmacy professionals.

Data analysis found evidence of personal and perceived stigma, and that pharmacy students feel unprepared to work with PMI. A variety of reasons accounted for this, and three major data categories were developed explaining how stigma affects students’ sense of unpreparedness – Knowing, Doing and Valuing (KDV). These three categories form the KDV cycle, a model providing both explanation of how stigma is perpetuated in pharmacy education and a solution for how this can be minimised. The data support the conclusion that pharmacy curricula should be modified based on the need to enhance pharmacy students’ preparedness, thus minimising the impact of mental illness stigma, rather than focusing on stigma alone. Recommendations are linked to the stigma drivers exemplified within the data and to specific learning outcomes required of pharmacy curricula in Great Britain. The thesis presents a novel contribution in the description of mental illness stigma in pharmacy students and evidence-based suggestions for the continued improvement of pharmacy education in relation to minimising the impact of stigma in professional practice.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJoe Bush (Supervisor) & Alexis Paton (Supervisor)


  • mental health
  • pharmacist
  • qualitative
  • pharmacy education
  • UK higher education

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