Effects of Contact-Based Mental Illness Stigma Reduction Programs

Age, Gender, and Asian, Latino, and White American Differences

Published in: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, [Epub December 2017]. doi:10.1007/s00127-017-1459-9

Posted on RAND.org on January 24, 2018

by Eunice C. Wong, Rebecca L. Collins, Jennifer L. Cerully, Jennifer Yu, Rachana Seelam

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Access further information on this document at Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.


Mental illness stigma disproportionately affects help seeking among youth, men, and ethnic minorities. As part of a comprehensive statewide initiative to reduce mental illness stigma and discrimination in California, a broad set of contactbased educational programs were widely disseminated. This study examined whether the effects of contact-based educational programs varied depending on the age, gender, and race-ethnicity of participants.


Participants (N = 4122) attended a contact-based educational program that was delivered as part of the statewide initiative to reduce mental illness stigma and discrimination. Self-administered surveys assessing beliefs, attitudes, and intentions toward mental illnesses and treatment were conducted immediately before and after participation in contact-based educational programs.


Participant age, gender, and race-ethnicity significantly moderated pre–post changes in mental illness stigma. Although all groups exhibited significant pre–post changes across most of the stigma domains assessed, young adults, females, and Asian and Latino American participants reported larger improvements compared to older adults, males, and Whites, respectively.


Findings suggest that contact-based educational programs can achieve immediate reductions in mental illness stigma across a variety of sociodemographic groups and may particularly benefit young adults and racial–ethnic minorities. Further research is needed to assess whether contact-based educational programs can sustain longer-term changes and aid in the reduction of disparities in mental illness stigma and treatment.

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