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Developing Organizational Interventions to Address Stigma Among Mental Health Providers: A Pilot Study

Abstract

This article outlines a pilot study of “It’s Just Us,” an organizational intervention designed to reduce stigma among mental health providers by increasing awareness of the stigma they hold toward both clients and other providers with lived experience of mental health challenges. The targeted organization was the Mental Health Service Line in a large, Midwestern VA health care system. About 30% of the clinicians in the service provided information about their levels of stigma toward clients and providers who manage mental health challenges at baseline, 1 year later, and 2 years later. Educational and contact interventions targeting stigma are detailed; the first year included education and short-term contact interventions, while the second year included continuous contact interventions. At the end of the first year, scores on a measure of stigma toward mental health providers with lived experience were significantly lower, while scores on (a) a self-report measure of stigma toward clients and (b) self-disclosure of lived experience to professional peers were unchanged. At the end of the second year, scores for stigma toward clients had improved, and providers in the sample were more likely to share their lived experience with professional peers. Further research is necessary to validate these findings. Data provides preliminary support for the use of the “It’s Just Us” curriculum as a means of reducing stigma among mental health providers. This model may also be useful in addressing stigma among other types of health care providers as well.

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Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development. The contents of the publication/presentation do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. The authors would like to acknowledge assistance from Dr. Lisa Hoffman-Konn in developing and implementing the “It’s Just Us” curriculum.

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Correspondence to J. Irene Harris.

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None of the authors have any conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This project was reviewed by our IRB and declared exempt from IRB oversight, as the data was collected for continuing education needs assessment. Labor unions representing the employees also reviewed and approved the project.

Informed Consent

Participation in baseline and endpoint surveys for this project were voluntary and anonymous. To protect anonymity, we used a passive consent system. Every survey had a cover letter explaining the purpose of the survey, the risks/benefits for participating, and noting that participation was completely voluntary and anonymous. This approach to consent was reviewed and approved by both the IRB and labor unions.

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Harris, J.I., Leskela, J., Lakhan, S. et al. Developing Organizational Interventions to Address Stigma Among Mental Health Providers: A Pilot Study. Community Ment Health J 55, 924–931 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-019-00393-w

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Keywords

  • Stigma
  • Mental health
  • Health care providers