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Stigma experienced as worse than symptoms of schizophrenia: A qualitative study about The OpusPanel.

AIM: Former patients and relatives of people who have received treatment in OPUS, a Danish specialized early intervention for first episode psychosis, have since 2009 worked to reduce stigma and increase hope related to schizophrenia and psychosis. They established The OpusPanel to share their own stories of living with an invisible disorder with new patients, health care professionals, politicians, and members of the public. The impact of The OpusPanel on stigma has not previously been explored or evaluated. The article aims to evaluate and gain an in-depth understanding of The OpusPanel's anti-stigma impact.

METHODS: In a qualitative design, 27 people with different affiliations to The OpusPanel were interviewed using semi-structured interview guides to capture their individual experiences of listening to, interacting with, or being part of The OpusPanel. Interview guides were constructed following a focus group interview with members of The OpusPanel. Analysis of the multi-perspectival dataset was facilitated through an interpretative phenomenological approach with investigator triangulation. Preliminary results were returned to the focus group members to ensure relevance and accuracy.

RESULTS: The study found that almost all interviewees described a sense of hopefulness and decreased stigma after having experienced a member from The OpusPanel present their story or participating as panel members themselves.

CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that attending presentations or participating in The OpusPanel reduces stigmatizing views about others or oneself. The study may inform The OpusPanel and similar initiatives for challenging stigma related to schizophrenia or psychosis.

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