[Does education focusing on depression change the attitudes towards schizophrenia? A target-group oriented anti-stigma-intervention]

Daniela Kohlbauer, Ullrich Meise, Manuela Schenner, Hubert Sulzenbacher, Beatrice Frajo-Apor, Harald Meller, Verena Günther
Neuropsychiatrie: Klinik, Diagnostik, Therapie und Rehabilitation 2010, 24 (2): 132-40

OBJECTIVE: It should be evaluated, whether two units of education about depression in a secondary school alter the student;s attitude towards patients suffering from depression and whether this intervention could also change the attitude towards patients with schizophrenia.

METHODS: A patient with depression - at the moment without symptoms - was involved in the educational program. At three specific times (T0 = some days before the intervention; T1 = some days after the intervention; T2 = 3-4 month follow-up), students have been presented with the same case vignette, one with the description of a fictitious depressive classmate as well as with one fictitious classmate with schizophrenia. The affective, the behavior-related and the cognitive dimensions of attitudes towards the described person were assessed by questionnaires.

RESULTS: At T0, the attitudes towards the case vignette "depression" have been significantly more positive than the attitudes to the case vignette "schizophrenia" in all dimensions of attitude. At T1, in the case vignette "depression" the factor "fear" showed a decrease, as well as the opinion this person could be dangerous. At T2, these factors reached the level of T0 again. The opinion, that these fictitious depressive classmates suffer from a treatable illness, was approved significantly more often at T1 and T2 compared to T0. The change of attitude towards the case vignette "schizophrenia" was even more distinctive. Compared to T0 feelings of fear, social distance and stereotypes, that such a person would be dangerous and unpredictable, decreased significantly at T1 as well as T2.

CONCLUSIONS: Target group oriented interventions including the contact with patients, may improve the attitude towards patients with mental illnesses. Seeing that some improvements decreased again after three month one may wonder whether a single shortterm educational program would be sufficient in order to provoke a sustainable change in attitudes. Although the intervention focused on a less stigmatized illness (like depression), the attitudes towards a more stigmatized illness (like schizophrenia) could markedly be improved.

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