Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Sharon McCarthy

Second Supervisor

Dr Ryan Anderton


The stigmatisation and disempowerment of mental health consumers led to the consumer recovery movement, which now underpins the reform of Western Australia’s (WA’s) mental health system. As medical professionals are one of the first lines of care for consumers, it is necessary to understand whether future doctors’ training aligns with the direction of the reform. This research explored a group of WA-based fourth-year medical students’ learning in mental health and psychiatry to understand how their knowledge and training prepared them for working with people experiencing mental or emotional distress. Conducted under a qualitative research paradigm using critical theory and underpinned by constructionist assumptions, two key themes were developed: Preparedness; and “Just” treatment and care. Preparedness consists of two sub-themes, Connections and Impacts upon learning, which were the overarching issues that impacted the students’ preparedness for both their final year rotations, and future practice with consumers. The students’ preparedness for practice was dependent upon the connections made with the course content that constructed their understandings, as well as the human connections made to consumers’ experiences. Time restrictions in multiple areas had consequences for learning as well as the extent to which participants were able to put theory into practice and develop their skills while on rotation. Therefore, the students’ level of preparedness, as well as the perceived preparedness of other professionals they encountered during their rotations was found to potentially have an impact upon the ‘Just treatment and care’ that consumers may receive. This means that many consumers may not, according to students’ observations, be receiving the recovery-oriented services mandated by mental health policy and many are also still experiencing discrimination from health care professionals. Overall, the findings provide evidence for further developments for the current reform of the WA mental health system, such as underpinning mental health curricula in medical schools with the consumer recovery paradigm to ensure consistency in recovery-oriented service delivery across all mental health services. In addition, the research identified that utilising critical pedagogy in health professionals’ education may further promote a more reflexive workforce that is critical of power differentials that currently disadvantage consumers, while working to reduce discrimination and stigma. Therefore, the findings of this research may be used for the continuous quality improvement of medical students’ learning and training, while working towards advancing the reform of WA’s mental health system through transforming the underpinning assumptions and knowledges of the professionals working within the system. This research, the findings and any potential resulting reforms and continuous quality improvement of systems and curricula all have the ultimate goal of improving care and recovery for mental health service users.