Reducing Mental Illness Stigma: Effectiveness of Hearing About the Normative Experiences of Others

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Mental illness stigma is both prevalent in our society and has serious negative consequences for persons with mental illness. The current study examined whether an intervention involving indirect contact with friends and family of individuals with mental illness could reduce stigma toward mental illness, as measured by desired social distance from individuals with mental illness and devaluating/discriminating perceptions of individuals with mental illness. Results demonstrated that a video intervention depicting family and friends of individuals with mental illness was as effective as a video intervention depicting individuals with mental illness. Both interventions were more effective than a control video for all but 1 analysis. Results provide initial support for a social norms theory approach to stigma-reduction intervention efforts, which has implications for formal and informal advocacy efforts by family and friends of individuals with mental illness who want to change societal perceptions of mental illness.

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