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Keywords:

  • adolescents;
  • Greece;
  • health education;
  • interviews;
  • mental illness;
  • secondary schools

Accessible summary

  • Positive perceptions towards mental illness are essential for a mentally healthy society.
  • This study explores adolescents' perceptions of mental illness and examines the extent to which these perceptions changed after a mental health educational intervention.
  • The results of this study demonstrate that there is a positive effect on adolescents' perceptions towards mental illness.

Abstract

Nowadays, in many countries, mental health care is primarily community based. Community perceptions of mental illness are an essential issue for the quality of life of people with mental health problems and the promotion of mental health in general. The aim of this study was to explore adolescents' perceptions of mental illness and to examine the extent to which those perceptions changed after an educational mental health intervention. The data were collected twice, before and after the educational mental health intervention. Fifty-nine pupils from two Greek secondary schools were individually interviewed, and data were analyzed by inductive content analysis. The findings show that adolescents can provide a rich description of mental illness in a multidimensional way. After the intervention, they provide different descriptions, identify various forms of mental illness and express opinions on what mentally ill people need and how they should be treated. It is concluded that mental health educational interventions in schools can be effective in changing adolescents' perceptions towards mental illness.