Impact of Skill-Based Approaches in Reducing Stigma in Primary Care Physicians: Results from a Double-Blind, Parallel-Cluster, Randomized Controlled Trial

Tara Beaulieu, Scott Patten, Stephanie Knaak, Rivian Weinerman, Helen Campbell, Bianca Lauria-Horner

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Most interventions to reduce stigma in health professionals emphasize education and social contact-based strategies. We sought to evaluate a novel skill-based approach: the British Columbia Adult Mental Health Practice Support Program. We sought to determine the program's impact on primary care providers' stigma and their perceived confidence and comfort in providing care for mentally ill patients. We hypothesized that enhanced skills and increased comfort and confidence on the part of practitioners would lead to diminished social distance and stigmatization. Subsequently, we explored the program's impact on clinical outcomes and health care costs. These outcomes are reported separately, with reference to this article. Methods: In a double-blind, cluster randomized controlled trial, 111 primary care physicians were assigned to intervention or control groups. A validated stigma assessment tool, the Opening Minds Scale for Health Care Providers (OMS-HC), was administered to both groups before and after training. Confidence and comfort were assessed using scales constructed from ad hoc items. Results: In the primary analysis, no significant differences in stigma were found. However, a subscale assessing social distance showed significant improvement in the intervention group after adjustment for a variable (practice size) that was unequally distributed in the randomization. Significant increases in confidence and comfort in managing mental illness were observed among intervention group physicians. A positive correlation was found between increased levels of confidence/comfort and improvements in overall stigma, especially in men. Conclusions: This study provides some preliminary evidence of a positive impact on health care professionals' stigma through a skill-building approach to management of mild to moderate depression and anxiety in primary care. The intervention can be used as a primary vehicle for enhancing comfort and skills in health care providers and, ultimately, reducing an important dimension of stigma: preference for social distance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • mental disorder
  • primary care
  • skill-based training
  • stigma

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