Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS Human Genetics


Human Genetics Graduate Program


Mental illness is very common, with some estimates that up to 50% of the population will experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime (Moffitt et al., 2010). Because of this, genetic counselors are likely to come across mental illness in patients throughout their careers. Stigma towards mental illness is a well-documented phenomenon, both in society and in the healthcare field (Mann & Himelein, 2004; Nordt, Rӧssler, & Lauber, 2006; Reavley & Jorm, 2011). It is possible that estimates of negative attitudes and stigma collected from genetic counseling trainees in past studies are underestimates, as they have relied on measures of explicit bias (Feret et al., 2011; Low et al., 2018). By measuring participants’ implicit and explicit biases, this study aimed to gain a better understanding of attitudes towards mental illness held by genetic counseling trainees. We found that genetic counseling trainees held no implicit bias towards individuals with either physical or mental illness. This data suggests that underlying bias did not contribute to the unpreparedness reported by new graduates (Feret, Conway, & Austin, 2011a; Low, Dixon, Higgs, Joines, & Hippman, 2018), so genetic counseling trainees may be receptive to clinically relevant education pertaining to mental illness. These results could inform curriculum of genetic counseling programs and facilitate provision of services to this population.