THERE IS A great need to pay attention to young people's stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness and educational interventions that try to reduce stigmatization. The aims of reducing stigma seem to be twofold: prevention of social exclusion and facilitation of treatments for mental illness among young people.
With regard to the first aspect, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) have acknowledged that people's stigmatization of mental illness is a serious problem in our society, because it generates various disadvantages for people with mental illness that include infringement of their human rights and social exclusion.1,2 Social exclusion includes harmful discrimination, income inequality (poverty) and unemployment, which eventually lead to a reduction in social acceptance with regards to those with a mental illness.3–5 Therefore, there is a dire need to answer calls for a safer society by reducing this stigmatization. There is no doubt that young people need to participate in such a society in the future, but this group has a greater degree of negative attitudes than adults on the topic of perception of people with mental health.6
Second, there is an issue about the use of mental health services among young people, as many individuals experience the onset of psychiatric symptoms in their adolescent years.7 Past reports indicate that 10% of young people in the UK and 14–18% of young people across Europe have mental disorders.8,9 Nevertheless, young people are less likely to access mental health services because of stigma.10 Stigma in society can deter the initiation of help from an individual suffering from mental health problems because they are labeled as abnormal in society.11 Meanwhile, early detection and treatment of psychosis have attracted a high level of interest from mental health professionals at the next stage of treatment for mental illness. There is accumulating evidence that shows that the diminishment of the duration of the untreated period can contribute to improved outcome in individuals with mental illness, including total symptoms, overall functioning and social functioning.12,13 This may imply that reduction of stigma leads to better access to mental health services and better mental health among young people. In that context, it appears to be necessary for health professionals to focus on young people when they try to reduce stigma.
While many studies have sought better educational interventions to reduce stigma, there are various types of programs. Educational interventions are roughly classified into the following three methods: direct contact, indirect contact and an explanation about (people with) mental illness by professionals. As a number of studies have pointed out, direct contact with stigmatized people can often contribute to lessening stigma.14,15 However, recent efforts to combat stigma towards people with mental illness have produced several other ways. For example, some studies reported that videos or computer programs (indirect contact) that show the lives of people with mental illness were also useful in reducing stigmatization among young people.16–18 Furthermore, even a short lecture can sometimes change young people's stigmatization.19 However, it may be unclear for intervention providers to select which ways are most effective in reducing stigmatization in young people. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to identify the key to reduction of stigma, classify the types of the programs, and point out potential future issues.