Changing attitudes of high school students towards peers with mental health problems

Institute of Mental Health, Palmotićeva 37, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.
Psychiatria Danubina (Impact Factor: 1.3). 07/2009; 21(2):213-9.
Source: PubMed


Stigma refers to the undesirable characteristics linked to mental illness and the adverse cognitive and behavioral consequences. Stigma causes a spiral of alienation and discrimination, leading to social isolation that diminishes chances for recovery. There is a great need for antistigma programs in order to decrease stigma related to persons with mental health problems. The antistigma program was initiated in schools of Serbia with the aim to address and decrease discrimination of adolescents with mental disorders.
Sixty-three students from high schools voluntarily participated in the program. The effect of the program on the attitudes of students was evaluated by the Opinion about Mental Illness Questionnaire given to adolescents prior to its implementation and six months afterwards.
Social discrimination and the tendency towards social restriction were reduced, while, at the same time, social awareness of mental health-related problems was increased among young people six months after program implementation. The results obtained clearly indicate positive changes in adolescents' attitudes and demonstrate a need for further educational activities regarding stigma and mental disorders.
Stigma and discrimination reduction programs for adolescents are aimed at achieving a change of their attitudes toward the mental health problems of their peers and themselves through organized education. Our program demonstrates the necessity for youth participation in mental health services and system, and antistigma actions are seen as important aspects.

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Available from: Lazar Tenjovic, Dec 14, 2013
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    • "Adolescence is a stage when individuals are rapidly maturing, both physically and emotionally, and this would be the best period to target their attitudes, while those attitudes can still be moulded. Hence it is important that combating mental health stigmatisation be instigated in early childhood so it becomes a part of children’s normal social development.20,21 The College has recommended that mental health trusts organise work experience placements for secondary-school students in an attempt to influence the students’ attitudes and improve recruitment into psychiatry. "
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    ABSTRACT: Aims and method Research shows that 16- to 19-year-olds express the greatest level of negative attitudes towards people with mental illness. Our aim was to assess the effectiveness of work experience placements in influencing secondary-school students’ attitudes towards mental illness and career choices. The Adolescent Attitude Towards Mental Illness questionnaire measured and assessed the adolescents’ attitude changes. Pre- and post-evaluation questionnaires assessed changes in their career choices. Results There was a statistically significant change in the adolescents’ attitudes, especially regarding categorical thinking and perceptions that people with mental illness are violent and out of control. There was also a positive shift in their career choices towards options in the field of mental health. Clinical implications Work experience placements can have a positive impact on secondary-school students’ attitudes towards mental illness and may improve the level of student recruitment into the field of psychiatry.
    08/2014; 38(4):159-63. DOI:10.1192/pb.bp.114.046714
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    • "Psychiatric services in Serbia have been mostly hospital centred. The Serbian National Committee for Mental Health was established in 2003 and de-stigmatization of persons with psychiatric disorders became part of the National Strategy for Development of Mental Helath Care in 2007 (Pejović-Milovancević et al., 2009). Law students do not learn specifically about psychiatry, i.e. how to recognize mental symptoms or disorders. "
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    ABSTRACT: BACKROUND: Stigmatization of psychiatric patients is present both in the general population and among healthcare professionals. To determine the attitudes and behaviour of medical students towards a person who goes to a psychiatrist, before and after psychiatric rotation, and to compare those attitudes between medical and non-medical students. The study included 525 medical students (second and sixth year of studies) and 154 students of law. The study instrument was a three-part self-reported questionnaire (socio-demographic data, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and a vignette depicting a young, mentally healthy person). The experimental intervention consisted of ascribing a 'psychiatric label' to only one set of vignettes. All the vignettes (with or without the 'psychiatric label') were followed by 14 statements addressing the acceptance of a person described by vignette, as judged by social distance (four-point Likert scale). Higher tendency to stigmatize was found in medical students in the final year, after psychiatric rotation (Z(U) = -3.12, p = .002), particularly in a closer relationship (Z(U) = -2.67, p = .007) between a student and a hypothetical person who goes to a psychiatrist. The non-medical students had a similar tendency to stigmatize as medical students before psychiatric rotation (Z(U) = -0.03, p = .975). Neither gender, nor the size of student's place of origin or average academic mark was associated with the tendency to stigmatize in our sample. However, student's elf-esteem was lower in those with a tendency to stigmatize more in a distant relationship (ρ = -0.157, p = .005). Psychiatric education can either reinforce stigmatization or reduce it. Therefore, detailed analyses of educational domains that reinforce stigma will be the starting point for anti-stigma action.
    International Journal of Social Psychiatry 06/2011; 58(5):455-62. DOI:10.1177/0020764011408542 · 1.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Stigma against persons with mental health problems is a serious problem with numerous consequences manifesting in the way they experience their own illness and in reduced motivation to seek professional help. The particular problem of stigma due to mental illness is encountered in the adolescent population. Objective: The aim of this paper is to examine the attitude of healthy adolescents towards their peers with mental health problems, and to compare the attitudes of adolescents from two different geographic locations. Method: The survey was conducted among adolescents from a Belgrade and a Sombor high school in January 2010. The respondents completed a social survey and the Opinions About Mental Illness questionnaire. Results: Comparing the tested groups, we found statistically significant differences by place of residence, history of psychiatric disease and religion of the respondents in relation to attitudes about mental health problems. The highest degree of prejudice appears on the benevolence scale, and the scale of interpersonal etiology shows the lowest degree of prejudice. Conclusion: It is necessary to implement preventive programs for adolescents, aimed to provide practical solution of dilemmas and correct answers to adolescents’ uncertainties regarding various aspects of mental illnesses. This will help reduce the discrimination against mentally ill adolescents, which will contribute to early detection and treatment, and later on, to their better reintegration into community.
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