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David Baxter

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To Fight Stigma Against Schizophrenia, Start Young with Better Education About It
June 24, 2007

A new research report suggests that bringing a person who has schizophrenia into school classrooms to talk with students might decrease stigma and improve attitudes towards people with the illness. Additionally, since schizophrenia may develop in a person's teen and young adult years while they are still in a school environment, decreasing stigma in this age group may also prepare students for helping their peers who might be developing it.

The study conducted in Austria, written up in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, investigated different aspects of the attitudes of groups of people towards people suffering from schizophrenia. At the same time, an attempt was made to find factors influencing these attitudes ? especially the willingness to contact people suffering from schizophrenia ? as well as to obtain information on how to reduce stigma and discrimination. People were categorized as being in one of 3 groups - the general public, professionals working in the field of psychiatry/mental health and relatives of mentally ill people.

The researchers found great differences in attitude towards people suffering from schizophrenia between groups: these included different causal attributions to schizophrenia, different attitudes concerning the perceived success of the treatment of schizophrenia, different fears concerning perceived dangerousness and a different willingness to interact voluntarily with schizophrenia patients.

Attitides differed between groups according beliefs about the cause of schizophrenia, perceived success of the treatment of schizophrenia, different fears concerning perceived dangerousness and a different willingness to interact voluntarily with schizophrenia patients.

The investigators hope the results of this study can help shape future antistigma programs. Because age and education seem to influence whether people are open to contact with those with schizophrenia, better education about schizophrenia, and especially better education directed at youth might be particularly helpful. This has been shown to be true when implemented in other countries.

The study's authors say,

"Schizophrenia being a disorder that commonly befalls younger patients, better-informed students would not only have a better understanding for people with schizophrenia, but also a higher likelihood of detecting this disorder in early stages in their peers, thereby indirectly helping to improve overall outcomes."​
Read the article: Stigma Can Arise From Surprising Sources
Original Source Abstract: Patterns of Social Distance Towards People Suffering From Schizophrenia in Austria: A Comparison Between the General Public, Relatives, and Mental Health Staff

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