Preadolescents' attitudes toward mental illness

Schell, Lori
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The purposes of the study were to describe preadolescents' current attitudes toward mental illness and to determine the effectiveness of an educational intervention on attitudes toward mental illness. The subjects were all sixth grade students in an integrated suburban intermediate school. All students in the study (n = 141) completed the Opinions About Mental Illness Scale (OMI) before and after an educational intervention. The OMI is composed of five subscales: Authoritarianism, Benevolence, Mental Hygiene Ideology, Social Restrictiveness, and Interpersonal Etiology. The OMI is considered a valid instrument for measuring attitudes toward mental illness. Four of the subscales have strong reported reliability (65–80%). The subscale for Mental Hygiene Ideology has lower reported reliability (29–40%). Students in the intervention group (n = 73) received three lessons on mental illness and students in the control group (n = 68) received health instruction from the state-adopted text related to mental health (not mental illness). Pretest scores were similar for all students regardless of ethnicity or gender. However, economically disadvantaged students had significantly lower Benevolence (p < .0001) scores and significantly higher Social Restrictiveness (p < .05) scores than students who were not economically disadvantaged. Posttest scores for the intervention and control groups were compared using the Mann-Whitney U to examine changes in attitude. There were no significant differences between the intervention and control group on OMI posttest scores. However, significant differences were found among African-American students. African-American students in the intervention group had significantly higher scores (p < .05) for the subscale Mental Hygiene Ideology than African-Americans in the control group, indicating a positive change in attitude toward mental illness.

Health and environmental sciences, Education, Intervention, Mental illness