Reducing stigma related to mental illnesses is important. Research suggests that how this is introduced is very important. Some stigma-reduction strategies are more helpful than others. For example, it is best to tailor the initiative to the audience, rather than offering a “one-size” event or speaker. Similarly, one-time sessions are much less helpful than those introduced over time. Follow up or booster sessions in small groups, rather than large assembly formats, are best. When selecting mental health awareness and stigma reduction initiatives, our decision support tool may be helpful in assessing and selecting activities for your setting.
Note that awareness-building campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk, Headstrong, and Elephant in the Room, can help to start the conversation and to normalize the experience of mental health problems.
In order to optimize impact, these sorts of initiatives are best offered in the context of a wider school-based strategy. Providing developmentally appropriate mental health awareness and literacy for students, as part of regular instruction, is a good way to build knowledge and reduce stigma over time.