Anti-stigma initiatives for mental health professionals—A systematic literature review

Anju Sreeram, Wendy M. Cross, Louise Townsin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

What is known on the subject?: Negative attitudes towards mental illness lead to the formation of stigma. Stigma prevents the recovery of people diagnosed with mental illness. There is evidence of stigmatic attitudes towards mental ill health among mental health professionals. Anti-stigma initiatives, such as education and training, may be effective in enhancing or maintaining positive attitudes towards mental illness among mental health professionals. What this paper adds to existing knowledge?: Education and training that is designed and delivered around a specific mental health diagnosis or condition appears an appropriate strategy that could benefit mental health professionals to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of mental ill health and its impacts on individuals. Consumer involvement in the education and training of mental health professionals regarding the stigma of mental illness is recommended; however, this is an under-explored area of investigation. There is a weak evidence base regarding the long-term sustainability of effects from anti-stigma education and training. This should be addressed via further research in future. What are the implications for practices?: Anti-stigma initiatives can support mental health professionals to develop stigma-free, recovery-oriented practices in their work. Further, such initiatives can improve the provision of evidence-based quality care for the consumers, facilitating their recovery. Abstract: Introduction Despite an increasing focus on stigma, evidence shows prejudicial attitudes towards mental illness among mental health professionals still exist. It is suggested that anti-stigma initiatives can aid in enhancing the attitudes of mental health professionals. However, research on initiatives targeting stigma of mental illness among mental health professionals is limited. Aim To identify and analyse scientific literature pertaining to the effectiveness of anti-stigma initiatives regarding mental ill health among mental health professionals. Method A systematic literature review was performed using the databases MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, Google Search engine and Google Scholar. The papers were limited to English language, published in peer-reviewed journals with full-text articles available and published between the years 2008 and 2020 to understand the most recent trends in the attitudes of mental health professionals including nurses. The Population, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome (PICO) strategy was used to identify papers meeting the inclusion criteria. Results A total of 439 papers were identified. However, papers not meeting the inclusion criteria were excluded from selection. Three appraisers reviewed the selected papers individually using the Joanna Briggs Institute [JBI] critical appraisal tool. Finally, eight unanimously accepted papers were included in the systematic review. Several effective anti-stigma initiatives were identified through the review, and these had positive impacts on mental health professionals’ attitudes towards mental illness, for at least a short period. It was identified that contact-based interventions are relevant and effective although the involvement of consumers and caregivers in the design and delivery of interventions was not explicitly addressed in detail in studies included in the review. Education strategies tailored for specific mental illness may be more appropriate, rather than approaches that refer to mental illness in general. Conclusions This review shows the evidence of pessimistic attitudes towards mental illness persists among mental health professionals. Anti-stigma initiatives identified in the selected papers were effective in changing these attitudes. Future research should be focused on the effectiveness of contact-based interventions and understanding the longer-term effects of the interventions among homogeneous groups. Full consideration of the varying level of clinical experience and expertise in mental health should guide the development and implementation of anti-stigma initiatives in this context. Implications for practice Anti-stigma interventions can have a positive impact on mental health professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and supportive caring for people diagnosed with mental illness. Such anti-stigma interventions may meaningfully support stakeholders to address the impact of negative attitudes on the physical and mental health status of people diagnosed with mental illness. With sustained leadership, effort and reinforcement, it is possible to create workplace cultures that prioritize stigma-free and recovery-oriented behaviours and practices within mental health services.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • anti-stigma interventions
  • mental health nurse
  • mental health professionals
  • mental illness
  • stigma

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