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Medical students’ perceptions of the use of feature films to teach the mental state examination
  1. Christopher Kowalski,
  2. Rory Conn
  1. ST6 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher Kowalski, Children and Families Department, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Tavistock Centre, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA, UK; chris.kowalski{at}

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Existing studies have explored the use of feature films to teach undergraduate medical students about psychiatric conditions.1–3 However, there are no existing studies examining medical students’ perceptions of the use of film to teach the mental state examination (MSE)—the clinical tool by which clinicians assess and report a patient's mental state separate from any purported diagnosis. Since students are most likely to undertake an MSE when meeting patients with mental illness for the first time, it seems practically more useful for film to be used to teach this.

The MSE is divided into several sections: appearance and behaviour, speech, mood, thoughts, perceptions, cognition and insight. Since portrayals of mental illness on film vary in the veracity of their depictions, focusing students’ observations on these specific areas may help prevent generalisation about how mental illness presents.

We explored students’ experience of teaching the MSE using film clips along with their perceptions of which aspects of the MSE such media are best suited to teach.


A short teaching session using clips from feature films and television dramas was delivered to 33 medical students from the University of Grenada. Clips were chosen to demonstrate a variety of psychopathologies: ‘Twelve Monkeys’, 1995 (delusional beliefs, perceptual disturbance); ‘The Caine Mutiny’, 1954 (paranoia); ‘The Soloist’, 2009 (thought disorder); ‘ER’, 2001 (mania).

After a brief overview of the MSE, students were asked to assess characters’ …

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  • Contributors Both authors made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work and to the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work. CK was responsible for drafting the work, submitting it for publication and revising it accordingly. Both authors gave final approval of the version to be published. CK agrees to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Grenada.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data created during this research are openly available on request.

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