Using a school-based intervention to challenge stigmatizing attitudes and promote mental health in teenagers
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Background: It is increasingly recognized that mental health promotion should target not just individual mental health but the negative effect of stigmatizing attitudes. Improved self-esteem may decrease the need to discriminate against others, and there is evidence that educational interventions can promote positive attitudes towards those with mental health problems. Aim: The aim of the study was to assess the effectiveness of a school-based intervention involving a professional theatre company in increasing teenagers' knowledge about mental health issues, and promoting positive attitudes towards people with mental health problems. Methods: The study design was a non-controlled intervention study. Secondary school pupils knowledge about, and attitudes towards, mental health problems, were measured before and after an educational intervention using the "Mindout for Mental Health" quiz. Results: Pupils' median quiz score was greater following the intervention than before it (p = 0.015). Following the intervention there was an increase in the proportion of pupils giving correct responses to questions regarding the incidence of mental health problems, the symptoms of mental health problems, and, to a lesser extent the risk of violence perpetrated by people with mental health problems. In contrast, the proportion of students who correctly responded to questions about the discrimination faced by those with mental health problems decreased between baseline and follow-up. Conclusions: School-based interventions that are both educational and experiential have the potential to improve knowledge about mental health problems and decrease stigmatizing attitudes among 13- 14-year-old pupils. Declaration of interest: Financial support for the study was provided by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. © Shadowfax Publishing and Taylor & Francis.