Can Mental Health Education Using a Storybook Reduce Mental Illness Stigma in Children?
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Individuals experiencing a mental illness are often stigmatized. Children also stigmatize those who experience a mental illness. There is national interest in reducing the negative effects of stigma, especially in children. Unfortunately, children anti-stigma interventions are being used without being empirically tested for their effectiveness. A goal of the Opening Minds Anti-stigma initiative of the Mental Health Commission of Canada is to identify programs and resources that have been empirically tested and found to be effective in reducing stigma. This study was funded by the Opening Minds Initiative of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to: First, investigate the effectiveness of providing children ages 11-14 with mental illness education using a storybook in order to reduce their mental illness stigma; and, second, to examine children’s perceptions of the anti-stigma book used to provide the education. A quasi-experimental design was used to test the effectiveness of the mental illness educational storybook in reducing mental illness stigma. The Youth Opinion Survey for Stereotype and Social Distance measurement was used to obtain baseline information before the education was provided. A pre-test, post-test process was used. Several qualitative questions, embedded in the post-test questionnaire, were provided to the children participating with an opportunity to use their own words to describe what they thought about mental illness before and after the education, what they learned from the educational storybook and whether or not they liked the education they received. The results show that the exposure to an educational storybook about children mental illness stigma was effective in reducing the percentage of negative responses at post-test. The participants used less negative words to describe someone “with a mental illness”. An improvement in the overall scores at post-test was seen for both stereotype and social distance. After the study was completed, the feasibility of conducting a study of this type was evaluated. Recommendations for the possibility of using this method for future studies are included.
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