Interventions to Promote Mental Health Literacy in University Students and Their Clinical Educators. A Systematic Review of Randomised Control Trials

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The effects of interventions for improving mental health literacy of health professional students and their clinical educators have not been established. This review analysed interventions to: support mental health literacy, deal with stigma, encourage help-seeking behaviour and improve attitudes towards providing help to those experiencing mental health issues.

The full holdings of Medline, PsycINFO, EBM Reviews, Cinahl Plus, ERIC and EMBASE were searched until 16th November 2016. Inclusion criteria were randomised controlled trials of interventions to support mental health delivered to groups or using face to face and / or online delivery methods compared to alternative education, usual curriculum or no intervention; and post-intervention measurements for intervention and control. Studies were appraised using the PEDro scale.

Mental health educational interventions were associated with statistically significant improvements in attitudes toward providing help. In one study, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) resulted in improvements in social associations with a person with a mental health condition. A mental health literacy program improved anxiety literacy. One study of MHFA improved MHFA knowledge. No significant effects were found for attitudes to seeking professional help or mental health stigma. Studies were limited to English and only short term effects were analysed. Method quality was generally poor.

Preliminary evidence suggests that interventions such as MHFA may potentially help clinical educators and health professional students develop positive attitudes to providing help and increase MHFA knowledge. MHFA may reduce social distance from a person with a mental health condition but the content needs to be refined if they are to change attitudes toward seeking professional help or stigma. High quality research that includes long term follow up is warranted given the importance of the attitudes of health professionals towards those with mental health issues and the mental health challenges of working as health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-175
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Professions Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

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