, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 545-551

Putting the person back into psychopathology: an intervention to reduce mental illness stigma in the classroom

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Abstract

Objective

This research aims to compare the effectiveness of two methods of teaching psychopathology in reducing stigma toward mental illness. Based on previous stigma research, a first-person, narrative approach was contrasted with traditional, diagnosis-centered education.

Study 1 methods

Participants consisted of 53 undergraduates at a small, public university enrolled in two introductory psychology classes. During six hours of class time focused on psychopathology, one class received the experimental pedagogy while the other served as a control, receiving traditional instruction. Stigma was assessed pre- and post-intervention using a social distance scale and vignette design. Statistical analyses compared means and change scores between the two classes.

Study 1 results

Students in the experimental classroom showed a significant decrease in stigma following the intervention, whereas those in the control group showed no change.

Study 2 methods

A follow-up study was conducted to replicate the promising effects demonstrated in Study 1. Two additional classrooms (n = 48) were both exposed to the first-person, narrative pedagogy, and their stigma monitored pre- and post- intervention.

Study 2 results

Students reported a significant decrease in stigma following the intervention.

Conclusions

Together, these studies suggest that traditional methods of teaching psychopathology do not lessen mental illness stigma, a serious concern that can potentially be reconciled by incorporating more person-centered instructional methods. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the way psychopathology is taught throughout the mental health field, as well as the practical application of stigma interventions woven into the curriculum.