C. Mahlke and T. Bock equally share last authorship.
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Mental health stigma (MHS) places a burden on those affected that far exceeds psychosocial harms. Contact-based anti-stigma work has been found effective for several target groups. For medical students however, its efficacy remains unclear.
The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of contact-based, trialogic anti-stigma training for medical students.
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted, controlling for standard clinical placement in psychiatry. External validity was maximized by including all students (n = 204) who started their 6‑week obligatory psychiatry course during the study period between March and July 2018. Assessments were conducted at the beginning of each of the two covered terms and immediately postintervention.
Students who received the anti-stigma training displayed significantly less stigmatizing attitudes after the intervention, measured using the MICA (Mental Illness—Clinicians’ Attitudes) scale as primary outcome. Analogous findings were noted for social distance and stereotypes, whereas these could not be observed for emotional reactions. All significant changes were independent of gender and age.
The positive results underpin the research in this field and point towards the inclusion of comparable interventions in regular student curricula. Given the limitation of a missing late follow-up, however, further research regarding the persistence of stigma reduction is needed.