In our own voice-family companion: reducing self-stigma of family members of persons with serious mental illness

Deborah A Perlick, Ann H Nelson, Kate Mattias, James Selzer, Carla Kalvin, Charles H Wilber, Brittney Huntington, Caroline S Holman, Patrick W Corrigan
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2011, 62 (12): 1456-62

OBJECTIVE: This article reports preliminary findings from a novel, family peer-based intervention designed to reduce self-stigma among family members of people with serious mental illness.

METHODS: A total of 158 primary caregivers of patients with schizophrenia were recruited from a large urban mental health facility (93 caregivers) or from a family and consumer advocacy organization (65 caregivers). Caregivers (N=122) who reported they perceived at least a moderate level of mental illness-related stigma were evaluated on measures of self-stigma, withdrawal, secrecy, anxiety, and social comparison and randomly assigned to receive one of two, one-session group interventions: a peer-led intervention (In Our Own Voice-Family Companion [IOOV-FC]) designed to stimulate group discussion or a clinician-led family education session, which delivered information about mental illness in a structured, didactic format. IOOV-FC consisted of playing a videotape of family members who describe their experiences coping with stigma, which was followed by a discussion led by two family peers who modeled sharing their own experiences and facilitated group sharing.

RESULTS: Of 24 family members and ten consumers, 96% rated the videotape above a predetermined acceptability threshold on a 19-item scale assessing cultural sensitivity, respect for different stakeholders, relevance of content, and technical quality (α=.92). Caregivers receiving IOOV-FC with low to moderate pretreatment anxiety reported a substantial reduction in self-stigma (effect size=.50) relative to those receiving clinician-led family education (p=.017) as well as significant reductions in secrecy (p=.031).

CONCLUSIONS: Peer-led group interventions may be more effective in reducing family self-stigma than clinician-led education, at least for persons reporting experiencing low to moderate anxiety levels on a standard questionnaire

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