Impact of a Mental Health Curriculum on Knowledge and Stigma Among High School Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016 May;55(5):383-391.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.02.018. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


Objective: This study evaluated the effectiveness of a school-based mental health literacy intervention for adolescents on knowledge and stigma.

Method: A total of 24 high schools and 534 students in the regional area of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada participated in this randomized controlled trial. Schools were randomly assigned to either the curriculum or control condition. The curriculum was integrated into the province's grade 11 and 12 "Healthy Living" courses and was delivered by teachers. Changes in mental health knowledge and stigma were measured using pre- and posttest questionnaires. Descriptive analyses were conducted to provide sample characteristics, and multilevel modeling was used to examine study outcomes.

Results: For the curriculum condition, there was a significant change in stigma scores over time (p = .001), with positive attitudes toward mental illness increasing from pre to post. There was also a significant change in knowledge scores over time (p < .001), with knowledge scores increasing from pre to post. No significant changes in knowledge or stigma were found for participants in the control condition. A meaningful relationship was found whereby increases in knowledge significantly predicted increases in positive attitudes toward mental health (p < .001).

Conclusion: This is the first large randomized controlled trial to demonstrate the effectiveness in mental health literacy of an integrated, manualized mental health educational resource for high school students on knowledge and stigma. Findings also support the applicability by teachers and suggest the potential for broad-based implementation of the educational curriculum in high schools. Replication and further studies are warranted. Clinical trial registration information-Impact of a Mental Health Curriculum for High School Students on Knowledge and Stigma;; NCT02561780.

Keywords: classroom intervention; early awareness; mental health education; stigma; youth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Curriculum*
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / education*
  • Ontario
  • Schools*
  • Social Stigma*

Associated data