Reducing stigma by meeting and learning from people with mental illness

Amy B Spagnolo, Ann A Murphy, Lue Ann Librera
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 2008, 31 (3): 186-93

OBJECTIVE: This study examines the effects of a public education program, developed in large part by consumers of mental health services, on the attitudes of high school students toward people with mental illnesses.

METHODS: Four hundred and twenty-six students were provided an informational session delivered by consumers and a faculty member from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The content of these sessions included facts about mental illness, characteristic symptoms, recovery strategies, and personal stories told by the consumer presenters. The students' attitudes were assessed pre- and post-session using the Attribution Questionnaire-Short Form for Children. Independent samples t-tests were used to assess changes in attitudes from pre- to post-assessment.

RESULTS: After viewing these presentations, students reported less stigmatizing views toward people with mental illness on seven of the nine factors and the total scale score.

CONCLUSIONS: A 1-hour informational session developed and facilitated by consumers of mental health services can significantly affect the attitudes of adolescents toward people with major mental illnesses. Future studies will evaluate the sustainability of attitude changes as the result of these presentations, as well as the effects of demographic and socioeconomic differences on attitude change.

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