Mass media interventions for reducing mental health-related stigma

Sarah Clement*, Francesca Lassman, Elizabeth Barley, Sara Evans-Lacko, Paul Williams, Sosei Yamaguchi, Mike Slade, Nicolas Rüsch, Graham Thornicroft

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mental health-related stigma is widespread and has major adverse effects on the lives of people with mental health problems. Its two major components are discrimination (being treated unfairly) and prejudice (stigmatising attitudes). Anti-stigma initiatives often include mass media interventions, and such interventions can be expensive. It is important to know if mass media interventions are effective. To assess the effects of mass media interventions on reducing stigma (discrimination and prejudice) related to mental ill health Seventeen of the studies had student populations. Most of the studies were at unclear or high risk of bias for all forms of bias except detection bias.Findings from the five trials with discrimination outcomes (n = 1196) were mixed, with effects showing a reduction, increase or consistent with no evidence of effect. The median standardised mean difference (SMD) for the three trials (n = 394) with continuous outcomes was -0.25, with SMDs ranging from -0.85 (95% confidence interval (CI) -1.39 to -0.31) to -0.17 (95% CI -0.53 to 0.20). Odds ratios (OR) for the two studies (n = 802) with dichotomous discrimination outcomes showed no evidence of effect: results were 1.30 (95% CI 0.53 to 3.19) and 1.19 (95% CI 0.85 to 1.65).The 19 trials (n = 3176) with prejudice outcomes had median SMDs favouring the intervention, at the three following time periods: -0.38 (immediate), -0.38 (1 week to 2 months) and -0.49 (6 to 9 months). SMDs for prejudice outcomes across all studies ranged from -2.94 (95% CI -3.52 to -2.37) to 2.40 (95% CI 0.62 to 4.18). The median SMDs indicate that mass media interventions may have a small to medium effect in decreasing prejudice, and are equivalent to reducing the level of prejudice from that associated with schizophrenia to that associated with major depression.The studies were very heterogeneous, statistically, in their populations, interventions and outcomes, and only two meta-analyses within two subgroups were warranted. Data on secondary outcomes were sparse. Cost data were provided on request for three studies (n = 416), were highly variable, and did not address cost-effectiveness. Two studies (n = 455) contained statements about adverse effects and neither reported finding any. Mass media interventions may reduce prejudice, but there is insufficient evidence to determine their effects on discrimination. Very little is known about costs, adverse effects or other outcomes. Our review found few studies in middle- and low-income countries, or with employers or health professionals as the target group, and none targeted at children or adolescents. The findings are limited by the quality of the evidence, which was low for the primary outcomes for discrimination and prejudice, low for adverse effects and very low for costs. More research is required to establish the effects of mass media interventions on discrimination, to better understand which types of mass media intervention work best, to provide evidence about cost-effectiveness, and to fill evidence gaps about types of mass media not covered in this review. Such research should use robust methods, report data more consistently with reporting guidelines and be less reliant on student populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD009453
Number of pages146
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number7
Early online date23 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • 1ST AID
  • Acknowledged-BRC
  • Acknowledged-BRC-13/14


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