SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)
Reducing Stigma by Meeting and Learning From People With Serious Mental Illness
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Reducing Stigma by Meeting and Learning From People With Serious Mental Illness is a project of The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey. It is supported by the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services.
This stigma reduction project aims to promote public awareness and education about mental illness, expose people to information on recovery, dispel myths and inaccuracies associated with mental illnesses, and highlight mental health consumer strengths and resiliency. In addition, this project aims to share messages via electronic media, respond to requests for public education and community education, and host forums on stigma with community groups.
Over the last decade, stigma reduction has become an increasingly important topic for research, public health campaigns, clinical care, advocacy, and policy development. The most effective stigma reduction approaches include increasing public awareness of the fact that many people diagnosed with a mental illness do recover. Additionally, educational programs aimed at reducing stigmatizing attitudes should provide opportunities for personal contact with people with mental illnesses.
This stigma reduction program offers five content modules to dispel inaccuracies associated with serious mental illness. For the past 2 years, people in recovery from mental illnesses and faculty of the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation have provided panel presentations to high school and college students as well as interested community groups in New Jersey.
These panel presentations are comprised of information about major mental illnesses, their characteristic symptoms, the various treatments demonstrated to be effective in managing these mental illnesses, and the very real possibility of recovery from a mental illness. The content has been developed through collaboration of consumers of mental health services, department faculty, and experts in the field of mental health service delivery. The presentation of accurate information, the inclusion of modules, and the emphasis on sharing personal stories of recovery comprise a three-pronged approach for decreasing stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental illnesses.
A DVD of the five content modules narrated by faculty members, leaders in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation, and consumers of mental health services in recovery will be available soon.
Faculty members have begun research to determine the effect of the presentations on the attitudes of the participants toward individuals with mental illnesses. Analyses conducted with 881 high school students and 69 college students have demonstrated promising results. After viewing the presentations, students reported less stigmatizing views of individuals with mental illnesses. All scores changed in the desired direction. Future analyses will determine the effects of the presentations on community group organizations.
For further information about this program, contact Amy B. Spagnolo, M.S., CRPR, Assistant Professor, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 1776 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076; phone: 908-889-2544; e-mail: Spagnoam@umdnj.edu.