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The impact of early direct-contact experiences on reducing mental health stigma among student pharmacists: A pilot study.

INTRODUCTION: Mental health-related stigma is a barrier to treatment and recovery for serious mental illnesses (SMIs). Educational training programs demonstrate positive changes in health professional students' attitudes and stigma toward SMI; however, student pharmacists have minimal opportunity to directly engage with the SMI population. This study aims to assess and compare student pharmacists' stigma related to SMI before and after participating in a pilot series of direct-contact workshop experiences.

METHODS: The 15-item Opening Minds Scale for Healthcare Providers survey was administered to student pharmacists before and after the workshop experiences to measure stigma toward SMI. Five 2-hour workshops were provided to members of a local nonprofit organization serving people with SMI by student pharmacist volunteers detailing a health and wellness topic. The postworkshop survey included free text responses to obtain student feedback.

RESULTS: Twenty-four complete preworkshop surveys were obtained, and most of them had positive attitudes and beliefs at baseline. Thirteen postworkshop surveys were obtained from student pharmacists who participated in a workshop event, and 9 were completed by student pharmacists who did not participate in a workshop event, which were used as a comparator group. Stigma decreased after participating in a workshop event, and those who participated demonstrated a lower degree of stigma versus the comparator group.

DISCUSSION: Direct-contact experiences allow student pharmacists to interact with people with SMI earlier in their training and help reduce stigma toward those with psychiatric disorders. Future research is needed to identify large-scale changes in pharmacy student stigma.

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