Exploring Strategies to Challenge Students’ Stigma Toward Mental Illness: A Literature Review [2020]

Objective: Research on the stigmatization of mental illness has consistently emphasized the need for intervention in students. Given that students are actively learning, they are often the target of anti-stigma programming. The following literature review aims to explore sources of stigma in healthcare, stigma reduction strategies, and gaps in the literature.

Methods: A broad literature search was conducted using PsychINFO, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar. Further articles were sourced as necessary through manual searches. Relevant articles were included in this literature review.

Results: Most of the major sources of stigma stem from a lack of understanding and experience in dealing with mental illness. As such, the most common means of reducing stigma fall into four main categories: (1) exposure to lived experience, (2) education, (3) short-term educational preparation, and (4) experiential learning. These interventions tend to be limited by short-term benefits and the possibility of reinforcing stigma. The literature revealed that experiential learning was the most effective strategy to influence stigma. It is noted that simply interacting with a person with a mental illness may not be enough. Instead, purposeful education and meaningful exposure is needed to challenge stigmatizing views.

Conclusions: Allowing students to participate in an intervention that integrates both education and contact may help to reduce stigma. However, continuous intervention beyond the student years may be necessary to maintain positive outcomes. More research into the stigma held by non-healthcare students is warranted in order to fully understand the issue.

Stephanie Alipanopoulos, Gregory Feng, Vanessa Shier
Journal of Recovery in Mental Health, 3(2), 2020