An evaluation of an educational approach to reducing mental illness stigma among college students

Reducing mental illness stigma has the potential to remove barriers that prevent individuals in need of mental health services from seeking care. Previous research has shown that the most commonly used approaches to reducing mental health stigma are media protest, contact experience with an individual who has achieved a degree of recovery and defies mental illness stereotypes, and educational approaches that provide accurate information about mental illness and the consequences of stigma. In the current study, an existing peer-to-peer modeled educational approach was evaluated to determine effectiveness of reducing stigmatizing attitudes. As predicted, college students who participated in a peer led educational presentation had a significant reduction in stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with mental illness, when compared to students in the control group. Contrary to predictions, previous positive experience with mental illness did not significantly improve attitudes towards individuals with mental illness. It was also hypothesized that students majoring in a social science would have reduced stigmatizing attitudes compared to students in other majors. This hypothesis was not supported. Overall, it appears that PEER Project’s educational intervention is effective in reducing stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness among college.