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Conversation Reduces Stigma Related to Mental Health Illnesses

Participating in conversation-based activities often help college students with reducing stigma around mental health issues.

A new study conducted by Indiana University found that students who take part in fun, peer-directed activities that openly and honestly address mental illnesses are most likely to reduce the stigma attached to these conditions.

Published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the study examined U Bring Change to Mind national initiative led by actress Glenn Close that works to reduce stigma around mental illnesses.

Nearly 11 to 14 percent of students who took part in various activities, including suicide awareness walk, scavenger hunt and escape room organized under the initiative, reported reduced stigma.

“This pre- and post-analysis is very unique. Moreover, the results show these efforts really did change campus climate … not only regarding attitudes but also behaviors,” author Bernice Pescosolido, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research said.

It also reduced prejudice toward people with mental illness and reduced likelihood of others distancing socially from them.

Attitudes of students were measured over time through surveys in their freshman and junior years. The study found that the campaign to reduce stigma in the U.S. is bringing the rate of change nearly five times greater than that produced by a national-level campaign to reduce stigma in the U.K. over the course of 10 years.

“When you look at most interventions, the numbers are very small. This study suggests that students really are at the right moment in their lives for this sort of intervention to make a difference,” Pescosolido said.

A recent survey by the American Council on Education found a rise in cases of mental health illness on campuses. Anxiety and depression are the top two mental health concerns across all sectors with presidents at private nonprofit four-year institutions most likely to hear about students facing both the mental health issues.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of students seeking mental health treatment jumped from 19 to 34 percent and those with mental illness diagnoses rose from 22 to 36 percent.

Students Mental Health is a Priority for Many College Presidents [Survey]

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