This experiment is part of the Mental Health Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness through Art

Raised of $8,154 Goal
Ended on 3/11/17
Campaign Ended
  • $54
  • 1%
  • Finished
    on 3/11/17

About This Project

About half of Americans will meet criteria for a mental disorder at some time in their lives. This underscores the importance for educational efforts to focus on the recognition of mental disorders in the primary care setting. We’ve accomplished this by merging medical education with pop culture. By transforming the theater into an educational venue, our primary objective is to raise awareness of and review mental illness among primary caregivers at Rutgers-RWJMS.

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What is the context of this research?

Findings from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Project (2005) revealed that about half of Americans will meet the criteria for a mental disorder sometime in their lifetime. The total economic costs of these illnesses exceed $103.7 billion (Rice, 2006). Given that 70-80% of individuals with mental illness who seek treatment will not present to a psychiatrist, it is critical for educational efforts to focus on the awareness, detection, assessment, and management of mental disorders in the primary care setting. One potential barrier to providing professional development is engaging non-psychiatric caregivers on topics germane to psychiatry and human behavior. Our project readily addresses this barrier.

What is the significance of this project?

The significance of our project lies in the 70-80% of individuals with mental illness who seek treatment from their primary care physician. Efforts in professional development and continuing education about psychiatric issues afflicting primary care populations have routinely fallen short. Primary care providers require continuing psychiatric education to ensure that they readily recognize and effectively treat co-occurring mental illness in the patients they serve. Our project provides the necessary professional development in a way that's creative therefore assuring enthusiasm and interest among primary care physicians.

What are the goals of the project?

The main goal of our project is to raise awareness of mental illness among primary care givers at Rutgers-RWJMS. As a hospital Quality Improvement (QI) project, we will dispense surveys to medical staff to capture data pertaining to attitudes, skills, and knowledge of mental disorders seen in their patient populations. We will then implement a program where medical staff attends local entertainment events. Following each event, faculty from the Department of Psychiatry will analyze the human behavior demonstrated to reach specified teaching objectives thereby transforming the event into a teaching didactic. At the end of each academic year, we will redistribute our surveys to capture endpoint data that assess whether our program effectively changed physicians' perspectives.


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As a Quality Improvement (QI) project, a subscription to Survey Monkey will assist with capturing data at the beginning of our project and after one year following implementation to measure QI outcomes.

The innovation behind our project is that we take continuing education out of the lecture hall and move it to various community venues; movie theaters and Broadway stages will serve as the venues where faculty from the Department of Psychiatry will provide professional development to medical staff of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

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This is an incredibly creative approach to raising awareness about mental illness among our primary caregivers here at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Tobia is an innovative educator who is highly regarded by his trainees, his peers and by school and hospital leadership. I am very excited to see this project come to life.
Dr. Anthony Tobia is a brilliant lecturer and educational innovator in the field of psychiatry. Medical students have uniformly expressed their appreciation of his clear and concise explanations of psychiatric disorders. He has transformed the teaching of psychiatry by his unique approach by applying psychiatric explanations to movies and theater events. I am always impressed by his aptitude for engaging his audience to the challenge of understanding of human normal and abnormal behavior.
I have been privileged to collaborate with Dr. Tobia on patient care for the better part of the last decade, and I have witnessed his recent Grand Rounds regarding viewing The Phantom of the Opera through a psychiatrists' lens. I can say that there is no one better qualified to explore this most important topic through the medium of art than Dr. Tobia. Overcoming the stigma of mental illness is paramount if we are to advance the cause of access to proper treatment.
Dr. Tobia is an extremely innovative thinker and teacher. His project using art to overcome stigma in mental illness promises to bring to physicians and lay persons a unique understanding of mental illness. Mental illness, often obscure, frightening and misunderstood, is destigmatized in this project by finding analogies in popular media and art. I strongly endorse his project and hope others will help fund this important venture.
I am really excited about this project. Dr. Tobia will be working to help reduce the stigma toward mental illness while educating professionals through innovative techniques.
For years, Dr. Tobia has used innovative teaching techniques to educate medical students and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and this project is another wonderful example of this. This project has been very well received thus far and is a way to student excited about a complex topic.
Dr. Tobia's innovative use of film and theater is a necessary transformative educational experience, building empathy for people with mental illness.
I am really excited about this project. It will play an important role in education and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness. The researchers are leaders in this field. I am confident this will be an outstanding effort.
Dr. Tobia is an excellent researcher and teacher who has shown a strong commitment to dispelling the stigma of mental illness. His use of popular culture to teach others about mental illness has proven to be very effective. I believe that this project will help to further educate others about the realities of mental illness, and encourage more people to engage in treatment.
Dr. Tobia is my mentor and I have worked with him on numerous projects at the intersection of art and mental health education. This is absolutely the most qualified team to bring this project to life.

Meet the Team

Anthony Tobia
Anthony Tobia
Associate Professor of Psychiatry


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - RBHS - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
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Nell Maloney Patel
Nell Maloney Patel
Associate Professor of Surgery


Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
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Sherine Gabriel
Sherine Gabriel


Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
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Team Bio

Our education team is comprised of master educators at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School lead by Dean Sherine Gabriel. Dr. Gabriel is leading the charge to merge our university's clinical (treating co-occurring mental illness) and educational missions (continuing education through art and media). This innovative collaboration with local theater groups is sure to engage teaching faculty and is critical in professional development to better serve patients in our care.

Anthony Tobia

Dr. Anthony Tobia is a graduate of the West Virginia University dual Med/Psych Residency Program and is triple boarded by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology, Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, and the American Board of Internal Medicine (maintenance of certification pending). He holds academic appointments of Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine (GIM) and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School where he serves as the Associate Program Director and Director of Medical Student Education.

Nell Maloney Patel

Nell Maloney Patel is an Associate Professor of Surgery at Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical school and is the current Program Director for the General Surgery Residency. She completed her residency at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia and a Colon and Rectal Surgery Fellowship in Chicago at Cook County Hospital/University of Illinois at Chicago. She is board certified in both General Surgery and Colon and Rectal Surgery. Her clinical interests are improving educational training programs for surgical residents, multidisciplinary approaches to rectal cancer and minimally invasive surgery, including Robotics.

As faculty secretary she is working towards creating community among physician partners and looking for novel ways to promote the unique gifts of faculty. She believes strongly in collaboration and looking towards innovative and creative solutions to a variety of challenges.

Sherine Gabriel

I became dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in July, 2015. Prior to this role, I served as the dean of Mayo Medical School at the Mayo Clinic, where I was also professor of medicine and professor of epidemiology at Mayo Medical School since 2000 and the William J. and Charles H. Mayo endowed professor since 2005. While at the Mayo Clinic, I worked in a variety of roles for nearly 30 years, and held many key leadership positions including:chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Health Sciences Research, medical director of its international office, and medical director of its Office for Strategic Alliances and Business Development; and as a member of the Mayo Clinic Executive Board. I also maintained an established NIH-funded research program in the epidemiology of the rheumatic diseases.

As a Canadian, I received my undergraduate education at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, and the College of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan Medical School, before earning my medical degree with distinction at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ever since childhood, I've been interested in and, to a small extent, involved in the dramatic arts. So this project allows me to bring my love of Medicine together with my love of theater and drama.

Project Backers

  • 2Backers
  • 1%Funded
  • $54Total Donations
  • $27.00Average Donation
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