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Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. 2008 Jan-Mar;17(1):20-5.

Implementing local projects to reduce the stigma of mental illness.


This editorial describes strategies used and the lessons learned in implementing two local anti-stigma projects. The WPA Programme to Reduce Stigma and Discrimination Because of Schizophrenia established projects to fight stigma in 20 countries, using social-marketing techniques to enhance their effectiveness. First steps at each site were to establish an action committee and conduct a survey of perceived stigma. Based on survey results, the action committees selected a few homogeneous and accessible target groups, such as employers, and criminal justice personnel. Messages and media were selected, tested, and refined. Guidelines are provided for setting up a consumer (service-user) speakers' bureau and for establishing a media-watch organization, which can lobby news and entertainment media to exclude negative portrayals of people with mental illness. Improvements in knowledge about mental illness were effected in high school students and criminal justice personnel. Positive changes in attitude towards people with mental illness were achieved with high school students, but were more difficult to achieve with police officers. Local antistigma projects can be effective in reducing stigma and relatively inexpensive. The involvement of consumers is important in working with police officers. Project organizers should be on the lookout for useful changes that can become permanent.

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