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Most research on interventions to counter stigma and discrimination has
focused on short-term outcomes and has been conducted in high-income
To synthesise what is known globally about effective interventions to
reduce mental illness-based stigma and discrimination, in relation first
to effectiveness in the medium and long term (minimum 4 weeks), and
second to interventions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
We searched six databases from 1980 to 2013 and conducted a
multi-language Google search for quantitative studies addressing the
research questions. Effect sizes were calculated from eligible studies
where possible, and narrative syntheses conducted. Subgroup analysis
compared interventions with and without social contact.
Eighty studies (n = 422 653) were included in the
review. For studies with medium or long-term follow-up (72, of which 21
had calculable effect sizes) median standardised mean differences were
0.54 for knowledge and −0.26 for stigmatising attitudes. Those containing
social contact (direct or indirect) were not more effective than those
without. The 11 LMIC studies were all from middle-income countries.
Effect sizes were rarely calculable for behavioural outcomes or in LMIC
There is modest evidence for the effectiveness of anti-stigma
interventions beyond 4 weeks follow-up in terms of increasing knowledge
and reducing stigmatising attitudes. Evidence does not support the view
that social contact is the more effective type of intervention for
improving attitudes in the medium to long term. Methodologically strong
research is needed on which to base decisions on investment in
Individuals often avoid or delay seeking professional help for mental health problems. Stigma may be a key deterrent to help-seeking but this has not been reviewed systematically. Our systematic review addressed the overarching question: What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking for mental health problems? Subquestions were: (a) What is the size and direction of any association between stigma and help-seeking? (b) To what extent is stigma identified as a barrier to help-seeking? (c) What processes underlie the relationship between stigma and help-seeking? (d) Are there population groups for which stigma disproportionately deters help-seeking?
Five electronic databases were searched from 1980 to 2011 and references of reviews checked. A meta-synthesis of quantitative and qualitative studies, comprising three parallel narrative syntheses and subgroup analyses, was conducted.
The review identified 144 studies with 90 189 participants meeting inclusion criteria. The median association between stigma and help-seeking was d = − 0.27, with internalized and treatment stigma being most often associated with reduced help-seeking. Stigma was the fourth highest ranked barrier to help-seeking, with disclosure concerns the most commonly reported stigma barrier. A detailed conceptual model was derived that describes the processes contributing to, and counteracting, the deterrent effect of stigma on help-seeking. Ethnic minorities, youth, men and those in military and health professions were disproportionately deterred by stigma.
Stigma has a small- to moderate-sized negative effect on help-seeking. Review findings can be used to help inform the design of interventions to increase help-seeking.
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