Changing Knowledge and Attitudes with a Middle School Mental Health Education Curriculum

Otto F Wahl, Janet Susin, Lorraine Kaplan, Amy Lax, Dayna Zatina

Abstract


Purpose: This research tested the effectiveness of a widely used mental health education curriculum in changing knowledge and attitudes about mental illness.

Method: Middle school students from four schools were provided the Breaking the Silence: Teaching the Next Generation About Mental Illness mental health instruction while students from other classes at the same schools received usual class instruction. Students completed questionnaires assessing knowledge, attitudes, and social distance preferences before, immediately after, and six weeks after the instruction was given.

Results: Students given the Breaking the Silence instruction showed improvements in knowledge about mental illness, attitudes toward mental illness, and willingness to interact with people with mental illnesses. Students in the comparison classes showed no changes.

Conclusions: Breaking the Silence was an effective means of improving the knowledge and attitudes of middle school students about mental illness.

Implications: An easy-to-administer and effective curriculum, Breaking the Silence is available to teachers and schools to help improve understanding and acceptance of people with mental illness. Such a curriculum, introduced during childhood and adolescence, may help to prevent the negative attitudes and misunderstanding that characterize adult perceptions of mental illness.

10.5463/sra.v1i1.17


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