Use of twitter to build mental health literacy among medical students and primary care physicians

Document Type





There is a significant dearth of physicians trained in mental health in Pakistan. Four hundred qualified psychiatrists are making it an alarming ratio of one psychiatrist to half a million people. Due to the lack of basic knowledge, psychiatric care delivered to patients by general practitioners is suboptimal at best. To address this gap, we designed a 36-hour course in principles of mental health aimed at general physicians. The course spanned over two months with weekly sessions. Initially, the methodology was designed for around 50 participants; however, 575 applicants registered in the first three days. Also, contrary to expectations, the majority of these were medical students from other universities. With a few weeks to go, the team reassessed methodology with a new focus on large. We decided to use Twitter to inform maximum engagement both in the classroom and beyond. The aim was to address the individual concerns of students with different levels and needs, to actively engage and build student-teacher relation, to respond to as many individual comments/communications as possible, to encourage in-participant discussion and to ensure instant communication and content sharing. More than 1200 people showed interest on the Facebook event page. 575 learners attended the certificate course. Majority of the participants were students with about 1% being PCPs. There were 15 multiple choice questions; 2 from each module. The minimal improvement for correct answers on pre-post tests was 9.1% and the maximum was 36.5%. The first four weeks were the most active for all aspects of the curriculum; interest dwindled in the last few weeks when twitter use was limited more for mandatory functions. The older participants in the audience were not comfortable using the technology platform initially, but later warmed up to its usage. Engagement of guest speakers on Twitter was minimal. Overall our experience shows that a twitter platform was helpful in creating engagement of participants in a 2 month weekly course of a large>500 student setting. Further research is needed to ascertain if a combination of engagement methodologies would be more successful in sustaining interest over a long course.


South-East Asian Journal of Medical Education