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The persistent and disabling nature of psychiatric stigma has led to the establishment of global programmes to challenge the negative stereotypes and discriminatory responses that generate social disability but these initiatives are rarely evaluated.
To assess the effectiveness of an intervention with young people aimed at increasing mental health literacy and challenging negative stereotypes associated with severe mental illness.
A total of 472 secondary school students attended two mental health awareness workshops and completed pre- and post-questionnaires detailing knowledge, attitudes and behavioural intentions.
Young people use an extensive vocabulary of 270 different words and phrases to describe people with mental health problems: most were derogatory terms. Mean positive attitude scores rose significantly from 1.2 at baseline to 2.8 at 1-week follow-up and 2.3 at a 6-month follow-up. Changes were most marked for female students and those reporting personal contact with people with mental illness.
Short educational workshops can produce positive changes in participants' reported attitudes towards people with mental health problems.
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