Service-Learning in Abnormal Psychology: Softening the Implicit Stigma Against the Mentally Ill

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Because of stigma, people with mental illnesses report feeling isolated and lonely, tend to be reluctant to discuss their conditions, and are less likely to seek treatments. Stigma reduction programs that incorporate some form of contact with stigmatized individuals have been shown to be effective in altering self-reported negative biases. The present study tested whether contact with individuals who have mental illnesses through a service-learning project incorporated into an undergraduate psychopathology course would reduce self-reported and also implicit biases against those with mental illnesses. Participation in a course with a service-learning component indeed resulted in significant reductions in self-reported, F(1, 69) = 121.35, p < .001, ηp2 = .64, and implicit biases, F(1, 64) = 41.88, p < .001, ηp2 = .40, toward people with mental illness beyond a course in which service-learning was not a component.

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