University students’ understanding and perceptions of schizophrenia in the UK: a qualitative study

Charlotte Cadge, Charlotte Connor, Sheila Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Objective To explore lay understanding and perceptions of schizophrenia in university students. Design Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. Setting The University of Birmingham, West Midlands. Participants 20 UK home students of white British (n=5), Indian (n=5), Pakistani (n=5), African Caribbean (n=4) and dual white British and African Caribbean ethnicity (n=1). Results Findings revealed a lack of knowledge about schizophrenia, particularly the negative symptoms that were not mentioned. There were mixed ideas on the causes and sources of available help for schizophrenia; however, positively many said they would consult their general practitioner. While there was a general misconception among the students that schizophrenia caused multiple personalities and was a dangerous illness, there were some differences in perceptions and understanding between ethnic groups, with more Indian students perceiving upbringing as a causal factor in the development of the illness and more Pakistani students perceiving possession by a spirit as a cause. Conclusions The university students interviewed lacked knowledge about schizophrenia and stigma was widespread, both of which may delay help-seeking. Public health campaigns educating young people about schizophrenia are required to improve early identification and intervention and improve outcomes. Further research exploring ways to effectively tackle stigma is also required.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere025813
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


  • mental health
  • public health
  • qualitative research


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