Perceptions of mental illness etiology and treatment in Saudi Arabian healthcare students: A cross-sectional study

Salman Alahmed, Irfan Anjum, Emad Masuadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Cultural beliefs often affect people’s attitude toward mental illness and their help-seeking behavior. Belief in superstitious causes of mental illness can lead to seeking help from non-medical practitioners, which might hinder treatment. This study aimed to explore the perception of mental illness and help-seeking behavior among healthcare students. Methods: A cross-sectional study carried out on a sample of 400 randomly selected undergraduate health professional students in Riyadh. Data collection involved two self-administered questionnaires: the causes and treatment routes for a female vignette with psychosis and the General Health Questionnaire-28. Results: The mean age of participants was 20.9 years, and 68.2% were male. Although participants reported a lack of personal history of mental illness (81.9%), female participants were more likely to disclose psychological distress as measured by General Health Questionnaire-28 (67.6%). Mental illness (47.2%) was chosen as the main reason for the problem depicted by the female vignette. General Health Questionnaire-28 scores for “caseness” did not affect perception about psychosis versus non-caseness. Factor analysis produced four dimensions for causes of psychosis: “social,” “psychobiological,” “superstitious,” and “socially undesirable”; and two treatment routes: “clinical” versus “social interventions.” Male participants leaned toward social factors for the cause of psychosis and were more likely to endorse social interventions for treatment. Conclusion: Healthcare students in Riyadh remained supportive of a biomedical approach toward the causation and treatment of mental illness. The use of religious practices as an adjunct was apparent. Students, especially females, were prone to experience more psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 16 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • epidemiology/public health
  • General Health Questionnaire
  • healthcare
  • Mental health/psychiatry
  • psychosis
  • schizophrenia
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceptions of mental illness etiology and treatment in Saudi Arabian healthcare students: A cross-sectional study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this