Stigma-Busting, Compeer, and the Psychology Student: A Pilot Study on the Impact of Contact with a Person Who Has a Mental Illness

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Abstract

Stigma has been identified both by people with mental illnesses and by empirical research to be a major barrier to service use and recovery. In addition, research has suggested that the most effective strategy for reducing stigma is personal contact with a person who has a mental illness and who is contributing to the life of the community. This article reports the qualitative findings from a study of the use of the Compeer model to address stigma in undergraduate psychology students. Findings suggest that befriending a person with a mental illness, even when done as a requirement for a college course, can be a useful experience in exposing and challenging stigmatizing perceptions and expectations and in offering people insights into the humanity and life experiences of a person with mental illness. Limitations and implications of this study for future stigma-busting efforts are discussed.

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