Effectiveness of a school-based intervention for enhancing adolescents’ positive attitudes towards people with mental illness

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George Giannakopoulos *
Haris Assimopoulos
Dimitra Petanidou
Chara Tzavara
Gerasimos Kolaitis
John Tsiantis
(*) Corresponding Author:
George Giannakopoulos | giannakopoulos.med@gmail.com

Abstract

High school students are a common target group in initiatives addressing discriminatory attitudes towards people with mental illness. However, these initiatives are rarely evaluated and documented. The aim of our paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based educational intervention for improving adolescents’ attitudes and reducing the desire for social distance from people with mental illness living in their community. A total of 161 students aged 16-18 years old were questioned at baseline assessment and 86 of them received a three-workshop educational intervention while 75 students comprised the control group. A follow-up assessment 1 month post intervention evaluated its impact. Attitudes and the social distance were assessed through the Community Attitudes towards the Mentally Ill scale and a 10-statement questionnaire based on the Self-report Inventory of Fear and Behavioural Intentions, respectively. Data from 140 subjects were analyzed. All attitude dimensions and half of the measured social distance statements were significantly improved in the intervention group at follow up assessment compared to controls. However, the statements measuring more intimate types of social relationships did not change significantly post intervention. In conclusion, short educational interventions can be effective to some extent in reducing discriminatory attitudes towards people with mental illness. However, effective interventions to address deeply held negative stereotypes will require further research.

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