Purpose: Contact with mental health consumers has shown to be a promising strategy to address mental health stigma, particularly in the context of pharmacy education. This research aimed to compare the effectiveness of a direct (face-to-face) contact intervention with an indirect (film based) contact intervention in reducing the mental health stigma of pharmacy students.
Method: A two-group, non-randomized, comparative study was conducted with third year pharmacy students (n = 198) allocated to the direct contact arm and fourth year pharmacy students (n = 278) allocated to the indirect contact arm. Baseline and immediate post-intervention data were collected using a validated 39 item survey instrument to assess the impact of the interventions on mental health stigma as well as attitudes towards providing mental health pharmaceutical services.
Results: Participants in the direct contact group showed a significant improvement in 37 out of 39 survey items and participants in the indirect contact group showed a significant improvement in 27 out of 39 items (P < 0.05). While direct contact had a stronger impact than indirect contact for 22 items (P < 0.05), for numerous key measures of mental health stigma the impact of the two contact interventions was equivalent.
Conclusion: Both indirect and direct contact may positively impact mental health stigma. While the strength of the stigma-change process may be heightened by face-to-face interactions, the largely positive impact of indirect contact suggests that stigma reduction may depend less on the medium of contact but more on the transcendent messages contributed by the consumers facilitating the contact experience.