Protocol: a cluster randomised control trial study exploring stigmatisation and recovery-based perspectives regarding mental illness and substance use problems among primary healthcare providers across Toronto, Ontario [2017]

Introduction Primary care settings are often the first and only point of contact for persons with mental health and/or substance use problems. However, staff experience and training in this area are often limited. These factors as well as a multitude of other components such as structural and systemic stigma experienced by staff can lead to clients being stigmatised, leading to poorer outcomes. By developing a comprehensive intervention for primary care staff working at community health centres (CHCs) aimed at reducing stigma towards people with mental health and substance use problems (MHSUP), we sought to test an innovative and contact-based intervention consisting of staff training, raising awareness, a recovery-focused art programme and an analysis of internal policies and procedures. All of these components can inform and support staff so they can provide better care for people who are experiencing MHSUP. CHC staff members and clients will be included in this project as active participants.

Methods and analysis This mixed-methods project will consist of repeated surveys of staff and clients, as well as in-depth, semistructured interviews with a sample of clients and staff. A cluster randomised control trial design will test the effectiveness of an antistigma intervention for CHCs in Toronto, Canada. Six CHCs—three receiving the intervention and three controls—will be included in the study. Using a variety of measures, including the Opening Minds Scale for Health Care Providers (OMS-HC), Mental Illness: Clinicians Attitudes (MICA) Scale, Modified Bogardus Social Distance Scale, Perceived Devaluation-Discrimination Scale, Discrimination Experience subscale of the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness (ISMI) Scale and the Recovery Assessment Scale (RAS), we hope to gain a thorough understanding of staff members’ attitudes and beliefs and clients’ perceptions of staff beliefs and behaviours. In-depth interviews will reveal important themes related to clients’ experiences of stigma both within and outside the healthcare setting.

Ethics and dissemination If demonstrated to be successful, this intervention can be used as a model for future initiatives aimed at reducing MHSUP-related stigma among healthcare providers in an organisational context. Adapting this work in other settings is a key strategic goal of this project. The project will also advance knowledge about stigma reduction and the experience of encountering stigma within a healthcare setting.

Akwatu Khenti, Robert Mann, Jaime C Sapag, Sireesha J Bobbili, Emily K Lentinello, Mark van der Maas, Branka Agic, Hayley Hamilton, Heather Stuart, Scott Patten, Marcos Sanches, Patrick Corrigan

BMJ Open, Volume 7, Issue 11, 2017