Nursing students’ attitudes and experiences with mental illness: a cross-sectional study

Louise Alexander, Nicole J. Rinehart, Marg Hay, Leanne Boyd, Kim Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Almost half (46%) of people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and all nurses need mental health knowledge and skills regardless of their area of specialization. Little is known, however, about student attitudes toward people with mental illness on entry to pre-registration nursing programs. The aims were to investigate Australian pre-registration nursing students’ attitudes toward, and prior experience with, people with mental illness on program commencement. This cross-sectional study used the Community Attitudes Toward Mental Illness (CAMI) scale with pre-registration nursing students, and questions on students’ prior experience with mental illness (self, family, friends). There were n = 311 (271 female/40 male) first year, first semester Bachelor of Nursing students at a national Australian university. Students reported prior experience with mental illness with family (49.5%/n = 154) and friends (61.4%/n = 191). Self-reported (36.3% /n = 113) mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression, significantly exceeded national averages. Most students held accepting attitudes toward people with mental illness, except for perceptions of dangerousness. This study provides new findings on nursing student attitudes and experience with people with mental illness on program entry. The high self-reported prevalence of anxiety and depression at program entry indicates a pressing need for early intervention and mental wellbeing strategies for students from commencement of their tertiary education. Fear-reducing education which challenges perceptions of dangerousness in relation to people with mental illness, and supportive mental health clinical placements during their program, may help improve students’ attitudes and reduce fear and mental health stigma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-77
Number of pages6
JournalTeaching and Learning in Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Attitudes
  • CAMI
  • Cross-sectional study
  • Mental health
  • Nursing student
  • Stigma

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