Journal of Community Health

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1204–1213 | Cite as

Evaluation of a Pilot Intervention to Reduce Mental Health and Addiction Stigma in Primary Care Settings

  • Akwatu Khenti
  • Sireesha J. Bobbili
  • Jaime C. SapagEmail author
Original Paper


Healthcare environments are not exempt from the impact of stigma against mental illness and addiction, which contributes to barriers to client access and appropriate treatment. To address this concern, healthcare organizations have a growing interest in mental illness and addiction anti-stigma anti-discrimination programming as part of their staff-wide professional development. Though standard interventions demonstrate effectiveness in the short and mid-term, the evidence for long-term change is inconclusive. A flexible, innovative intervention was developed in collaboration with community health care centres to reduce mental illness and addiction stigma and discrimination at an organizational level. A mixed methods approach was utilized to develop the intervention design and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. 137 people participated in the survey component of the study and five senior management staff in interviews. Quantitative results showed that the intervention was effective in changing attitudes toward mental illness (e.g. 5,9% improvement in OMS-HC score, p < 0,05) and substance use problems (e.g. 8.4% reduction in social distance for heroin dependence, p < 0.05). Qualitative findings were positive for indicators of observed improvement in mental health knowledge and behaviour. The implications for future research that allows for the further evaluation of multicomponent anti-stigma interventions in healthcare settings are discussed.


Anti-stigma intervention Mental illness Addiction Primary care 



We thank our community health centre collaborators for their partnership and dedication to this initiative: Angela Robertson, Joseph Bortolussi and Lorraine Barnaby; Michelle Joseph, Paulos Gebreyesus and Tamara Robert; and Jason Altenberg, Gurpreet Karir and Wanda Georgis. We also thank our research team for their contributions: Maureen Murney, Erica Suh, Jewel Bailey, Ayesha Nayar, Bethel Woldemichael, Erin Lee and Mark van der Maas. In addition, Jaime C. Sapag’s participation in the final stage of preparation of the manuscript was connected with the project "Stigma toward mental illness among primary care professionals in Chile" which was supported by FONDECYT Regular 2016 #1160099 Grant by the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FONDECYT), National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), Chile.


This study was funded by Opening Minds, Mental Health Commission of Canada; and Development and Dissemination Grant, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario, Canada.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10900_2019_706_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
(DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Transformative Global Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy ResearchCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthOntarioCanada
  2. 2.Departments of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, School of MedicinePontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  3. 3.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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