Promoting adolescent mental health, challenging stigma, and improving mental health literacy using intergroup contact

Presentation First Author: 
Katharine Chisholm

Interventions designed to promote adolescent mental health awareness are greatly needed due to the high risk of this period for the onset of severe mental disorders, including psychosis. In particular, it is important that interventions facilitate engagement with adolescents in a way that promotes learning and empathy. Intergroup contact theory, which hypothesises that interaction between different groups reduces prejudice and discrimination, may be an effective strategy for reducing stigma and increasing engagement in mental health educational programmes. 6 schools from Birmingham, UK, took part in the SchoolSpace Project, a randomised controlled trial which aimed to reduce stigma, improve mental health literacy and promote mental health. Students in the 'contact and education condition received an interactive discussion with a young person with lived experience of mental illness, in order to facilitate intergroup contact. Students in the 'education condition received a brief history of mental illness in place of the contact session. 657 adolescents aged 11-13 participated. Stigma, mental health literacy, mental health and schizotypal thinking all improved significantly pre to post intervention. This improvement was maintained at 6 month follow up for stigma, mental health literacy and schizotypal thinking. Contrary to hypothesis, intergroup contact did not add value to education alone, and significantly reduced impact for some measures. The programme was successful in reducing stigma, promoting mental health, and increasing mental health literacy. Although intergroup contact proved highly acceptable to schools and participants, results indicate that intergroup contact may not add value with this age group.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2015
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