Could a short training intervention modify opinions about mental illness? A case study on French health professionals.

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Villani M, Kovess-Masfety V. Could a short training intervention modify opinions about mental illness? A case study on French health professionals. BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 8;17(1):133. doi: 10.1186/s12888-017-1296-0.

Background: In France, negative views on schizophrenia are pervasive, even among health professionals. Prior research suggests that the level of prejudice is lower when the illness is described with the example of a specific individual. This finding highlights the importance of designing local, targeted destigmatization campaigns. The present study aims to evaluate the benefits of a short intervention offering contact with psychiatric services users on reducing the stigma about mentally ill people, among a sample of Health Administrators and Students.

Methods: Data were collected before (Time 0) and after (Time 1) a short training intervention program proposed to a sample of 121 Health Services Administrators and Students. This four-day workshop explained the multiple causes of mental illness, the clinical implications of psychosis and various mental disorders, the subjective experience of mental illness and the legal evolutions of users' rights. The intervention was strongly based on live testimonies from users. Using a French version of the Attitudes to Mental Illness scale, we compared attitudes before and after the training intervention among 58 trainees having answered our questionnaire at Time 0 and Time 1.

Results: After the training, a significantly lower endorsement of stigmatizing statements compared to baseline was found in one third (9 out of 27) of the items. These results plead for further research about the potential benefits of initiatives like this short intervention program on significantly reducing stigmatizing attitudes towards mentally ill people among Health Administrators and Students.

Conclusions: The present study highlights the importance of further studying the effect of targeted interventions that offer first hand contact with persons with mental illness.

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