Mentally Accept the Ill

Stigma intervention for families of mental health patients proves affective

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While treatment and understanding of schizophrenia has improved greatly over the past few decades, a stigma associated with the disease can still remain, even in family members of those afflicted with the disease.

Doctors understand the importance of support amongst family members, and a new study reports the effects of a novel intervention technique designed to increase understanding and eliminate these negative associations.

"Fight mental health stigmas that hurt loved ones."

Deborah Perlick, Ph.D., and her team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and lawyers worked with 158 primary caregivers of schizophrenia. Of the bunch, 122 admitted to have at least a moderate level of stigma in regards to mental illness and were assigned to one of two single-session group intervention techniques.

Available through the journal Psychiatry Services, the researchers tested a peer-led intervention called “In Our Own Voice-Family Companion” against a clinician-led education session for the family. While the peer-intervention included a video of other families’ struggles followed by a discussion, the clinical session ran through a structured, didactic educational format.

According to Dr. Perlick, “peer-led group interventions may be more effective in reducing family self-stigma than clinician-led education, at least for persons reporting experiencing low to moderate anxiety levels on a standard questionnaire.”

Assessing family first for stigma, secrecy, withdrawal, and anxiety, those initially admitting to slightly anxious symptoms found a substantial decrease in self-stigma and secrecy in comparison to the clinician-run intervention.

Additionally, nearly all of 36 individuals providing feedback on the video found it to be better than researchers’ anticipated when assessed for cultural sensitivity, respect for stakeholders, relevance, as well as sixteen other aspects designed to stimulate group discussion.

A copy of the video may be found through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as information on programs throughout the nation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2011
Last Updated:
December 13, 2011