Research shows mental health stigma could be stopped at school

By September 2, 2014 Press release, Programs No Comments
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Black Dog Institute research published this week show school-based mental health programmes significantly reduce stigma and improve mental health awareness.

It’s widely acknowledged that stigma and a lack of mental health awareness are major barriers to help seeking. Reducing the impact of these factors enables earlier diagnosis and a considerably better health outcome for individuals, whilst minimising the negative perceptions of the community at large.

A new Black Dog Institute research study has shown, for the first time, that it’s possible to break the cycle of stigma and increase mental health literacy through the implementation of an engaging school-based education programme.

According to Black Dog Institute Director, Professor Helen Christensen, targeting these messages to young people is of particular importance.

“The majority of mental disorders experienced by adults begin by the age of 18. Integrating mental health literacy and stigma reduction programmes into the school curricula could have an immediate, and potentially life-long, effect.”

The study, published this week in the prestigious Journal of Adolescence, involved year 9 & 10 students from 10 secondary schools across NSW. Groups were randomly allocated to either the mental health literacy programme “HeadStrong”, or to the standard PDHPE curriculum.

According to lead author, Dr Yael Perry, the results were striking.

“We found that students receiving the HeadStrong programme had significantly better mental health literacy – classified as a good understanding of mental illness symptoms and the factors that contribute to their development.”

“Stigmatising attitudes were also significantly lower in this group.”

“These results strongly indicate the need for the integration of mental health literacy programmes into all schools across the country.”

The Black Dog Institute Headstrong programme was developed in partnership with teachers, clinicians, Matthew Johnstone creative and the Reach-Out by Inspire Foundation. HeadStrong is freely available from http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/education/headstrong.cfm

The authors are available for interview.Contact Gayle McNaught on 0401625905 or g.mcnaught@blackdog.org.au for more information.