Authors: Christina Veprek, SA
Event: 2011 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Life Without Barriers Community Peer Workers , anti-stigma, community education program, mental illness, attitude change
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Objective: This study examines the effects of a Community Education Program (CEP) developed in large part by Life Without Barriers Community Peer Workers (CPWs), on the attitudes of the community towards people with mental illness. Methods: Eight hundred and three participants were provided with the CEP delivered by CPWs. The presentation explored attitudes of social inclusion and exclusion, the issues surrounding diagnosis, strategies for living well with a mental illness, with a focus on recovery as a journey and the belief that it is possible. The participant’s attitudes were assessed pre-and-post-session using the Public Stigma measure (AQ-9). Independent samples t-tests were used to assess changes in attitudes from pre- to post-assessment. Participants were also given a five item questionnaire in order to guide improvements and to obtain some qualitative data. Results: After viewing the CEP, participants reported statistically significantly less stigmatising views towards people with mental illness. There were significant between group differences with students and younger people scoring significantly higher on stigmatising attitudes. The qualitative data suggests that most participants (81.6%) felt that the presentation was effective at stigma reduction. Conclusions: A 20-30 minute CEP, with time for questions, developed and facilitated by CPWs can significantly affect the attitudes of participants towards people with major mental illnesses. Future studies will target young people and students, and evaluate the sustainability of attitude change as a result of these presentations. It would also be valuable to explore if attitude change affects behaviour, and to assess the affect of psychiatric diagnosis on subsequent attitudinal reports.