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Youth knowledge and attitudes about mental illness Otto Wahl & Dayna Zatina University of Hartford Amy Lax, Janet Susin, & Lorraine Kaplan NAMI Queens/Nassau.

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Presentation on theme: "Youth knowledge and attitudes about mental illness Otto Wahl & Dayna Zatina University of Hartford Amy Lax, Janet Susin, & Lorraine Kaplan NAMI Queens/Nassau."— Presentation transcript:

1 Youth knowledge and attitudes about mental illness Otto Wahl & Dayna Zatina University of Hartford Amy Lax, Janet Susin, & Lorraine Kaplan NAMI Queens/Nassau

2 Rationale for the current study Mental illnesses are common among youth. Youth knowledge and attitudes will affect treatment seeking. Youth knowledge and attitudes will affect peers who experience psychiatric disorders. Youth knowledge attitudes set the foundation for adult attitudes. Compared to adult attitudes, relatively little is known about youth views of mental illnesses.

3 Highlights of previous research Multiple measuressurvey, story-telling, stick figure drawings of social distance Limited psychometric evaluation of measures. Wide range of ages and developmental levels. Main results: – –Knowledge about mental illnesses limited, especially at younger ages. – –Specific, consistent attitudes not found – –But generally, even younger school age children see mental illnesses in a more negative light than they see physical illnesses.

4 Current Research Participants = 88 middle school students (7 th grade) – –From two U.S. schools (Connecticut and South Carolina) – –1 public, 1 private – –50% male and 50% female – –13% Minorities This was the first part of a larger study to assess the impact of a middle school mental health education curriculum on knowledge and attitudes. Goals of part 1 were: – –To establish a measure appropriate for middle school students – –To establish a baseline of knowledge and attitudes toward mental illnesses.

5 Instrument Development Knowledge and attitudes questionnaire – –Selected knowledge items based on previous research, current adult instruments, and facts stressed in the teaching curriculum. – –Similar selection for attitude items. Social distance measure modified for middle school experiences Language reviewed by advisory board of school teachers and educators and modified to fit middle school students Reading level of items analyzed via Microsoft program, leading to further modification of items. Lower level items were placed earlier in the questionnaires.

6 Study Measures Knowledge and attitude questionnaire – –35 items – –18 Knowledge and 17 attitude questions – –Likert choices from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree (5-point scale) – –Questionnaire included reverse items (where disagreement rather than agreement indicated greater knowledge and more positive attitudes) – –Reverse items were reverse scored so that higher scores indicate greater knowledge and more positive attitudes Social Distance measure (8 items) – –Willingness to interact in specific situations – –5-point Likert choicesDefinitely Unwilling to Definitely Willing – –Higher scores indicate greater acceptance

7 Psychometric properties of measures Internal consistency (Kappa) – –Knowledge:.45 – –Attitudes:.82 – –Social Distance:.90 Test-retest reliability – –Knowledge:.67 – –Attitudes:.82 – –Social Distance:.90

8 Knowledge: The Good News Overall knowledge was reasonably good Mean overall knowledge score was (max = 90). The majority of students knew that – –mental illness is not contagious (89%) – –psycho and maniac are unacceptable terms to describe people with mental illnesses (63%) – –mental illnesses have biological causes (60%) – –people with mental illnesses are not violent and dangerous (58%)

9 Knowledge: Not-so-good News There were numerous gaps in specific knowledge. Only 58% agreed that people with mental illnesses are not violent and dangerous. Only a minority of students knew that – –people with bipolar disorder are sometimes overconfident and overly energetic (10%) – –severe forms of mental illness can be treated successfully (11%) – –schizophrenia does not involve multiple personalities (18%) – –mental illness is often mistaken for drug abuse (23%) – –people with mental illnesses have included famous people such as astronauts, presidents, and baseball players (33%) – –mental illness and mental retardation are not the same things (41%)

10 Attitudes and Social Distance: The Good News Expressed attitudes were generally positive. – –Overall attitude score: (max = 85) – –Overall social distance score: (max = 40) The majority of students – –Agreed that a person with a mental illness can be a good friend (91%) – –Agreed that people with mental illnesses deserve respect (86%) – –Indicated they would be willing to have someone with a mental illness In a class with them (72%) As a neighbor (67%)

11 Attitudes and Social Distance: No-so-good News The downside of the good news: – –More than 1 in 4 are not willing to have someone with a mental illness in a class with them. – –One third are not willing to have someone with a mental illness as a neighbor. A substantial percentage of students agreed that – –it would be embarrassing to have a mental illness (39%) – –children with mental illnesses should not be in regular classrooms (28%). – –they have little in common with someone with a mental illness (28%) Only a minority of students indicated they would be willing to – –invite someone with a mental illness to their home (44%) – –work on a class project with someone with a mental illness (38%) – –go on a date with someone with a mental illness (20%)

12 Conclusions It is possible to develop measures of youth knowledge and attitudes that are reliable, internally consistent, and informative. Results from these measures suggest: – –There is substantial need for improvement in youth knowledge and attitudes related to mental illnesses. – –Educational efforts with youth should convey information about specific disorders and their manifestations and differences. – –Work with youth should encourage greater acceptance and tolerance of peers with psychiatric disorders.


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