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New Collaboration Evaluates Effectiveness of Mental Illness Educational Project

Science Update

Two new grants funded by NIMH will examine the effectiveness of educational materials designed to teach young people about mental illnesses and reduce the stigma associated with them. The two-year project is a joint endeavor between Otto Wahl, PhD, of the University of Hartford, and Amy Lax of the Queens/Nassau chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The partnership was developed in response to an NIMH initiative to support collaborative work between consumer, advocacy, and other community groups and researchers aimed at reducing stigma associated with mental illnesses.

The Breaking the Silence (BTS) educational program was designed by NAMI Queens/Nassau and has been distributed to a wide range of schools. The evaluation will determine if the program is successful in shaping middle school students' knowledge, attitudes, and behavior towards mental illnesses and people with mental illnesses. Dr. Wahl and NAMI's Ms. Lax will study outcomes among students in classrooms that implement the program and compare those with classrooms that do not teach the program. The researchers will use pre- and post-tests to determine immediate change among the students, and will follow up one to two months after the program is taught to gauge any long-term change among the students.

The evaluation will provide valuable information about the BTS program, and may provide data that could lead to program revisions to increase effectiveness. It also will provide information on how to accurately measure youth attitudes toward mental illnesses that could be useful to future research.