Modifying attitudes to mental health using comedy as a delivery medium
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- Jones, N., Twardzicki, M., Ryan, J. et al. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2014) 49: 1667. doi:10.1007/s00127-014-0868-2
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Beliefs about other people’s potential views or reactions may be powerful determinants of mental health help-seeking behaviours. United Kingdom Armed Forces (UK AF) have made considerable efforts to promote appropriate help seeking though it is often suggested that military personnel remain reluctant to seek help. This study evaluated a novel stigma-reduction method, stand-up comedy, in service personnel.
Personnel viewed a regular comedy show or a show containing mental health information. Pre, immediately post-show and 3 months later, military stigmatisation, potential discrimination, mental health knowledge, help-seeking and coping behaviour, talking about mental health, current mental health and alcohol use were measured.
Response rates were 81.3 % pre-show, 67.6 % post-show and 18.9 % at follow-up. Inclusion of mental health material did not appear to detract from show satisfaction. Post-show, intervention group (IG) participants reported significantly less stigmatisation and accurately answered mental health-related questions; in the small numbers followed up, neither difference was maintained, however, IG personnel were statistically significantly more likely to discuss mental health and to advise others about mental health; adjusted analyses suggested that this was related to factors other than the show.
In UK AF personnel, embedding mental health awareness within a comedy show format had a short-term positive effect upon military stigmatisation regarding mental health. The low rate of follow-up limited our ability to assess whether this effect was durable. If the longevity of change can be adequately assessed and demonstrated in further research, comedy could potentially form a component of a comprehensive stigma-reduction strategy.