Cerully, J. L., Collins, R. L., Wong, E. C., Seelam, R., & Yu, J. (2018). Differential response to contact-based stigma reduction programs: Perceived quality and personal experience matter. Psychiatry research, 259, 302–309.
The aim of this study was to examine two under-studied factors integral to the theoretical underpinnings of contact-based mental illness stigma reduction programs: the quality of the contact and prior personal experience with persons with mental health problems. This study utilized pre- and post-survey data collected from 4122 individuals participating in a diverse set of contact-based educational programs implemented as part of California’s statewide initiative to reduce mental illness stigma. Multi-level mixed regression models were used to determine whether pre-post changes in a variety of stigma-related measures varied depending on perceived quality of contact and prior personal experience with mental illness. Significant pre-post reductions in stigma were observed, but individual perceptions of contact quality strongly moderated program effects. Mean contact quality across all attendees at a presentation was rarely a moderator. Though effective for all participants, on average, contact-based educational programs were more effective for those without prior personal or family experience of mental illness. Program organizers may wish to target recruitment efforts to reach more individuals without such experience, given the greater effectiveness of contact among these individuals. More research should explore the factors underlying individual variation in perceived quality of contact-based stigma reduction programs.