AIMS: This systematic review compiled evidence on interventions to reduce mental health-related stigma among medical and nursing students in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Primary outcomes were stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviours.
METHODS: Data collection included two strategies. First, previous systematic reviews were searched for studies that met the inclusion criteria of the current review. Second, a new search was done, covering the time since the previous reviews, i.e. January 2013 to May 2017. Five search concepts were combined in order to capture relevant literature: stigma, mental health, intervention, professional students in medicine and nursing, and LMICs. A qualitative analysis of all included full texts was done with the software MAXQDA. Full texts were analysed with regard to the content of interventions, didactic methods, mental disorders, cultural adaptation, type of outcome measure and primary outcomes. Furthermore, a methodological quality assessment was undertaken.
RESULTS: A total of nine studies from six countries (Brazil, China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Somaliland and Turkey) were included. All studies reported significant results in at least one outcome measure. However, from the available literature, it is difficult to draw conclusions on the most effective interventions. No meta-analysis could be calculated due to the large heterogeneity of intervention content, evaluation design and outcome measures. Studies with contact interventions (either face-to-face or video) demonstrated attitudinal change. There was a clear lack of studies focusing on discriminatory behaviours. Accordingly, training of specific communication and clinical skills was lacking in most studies, with the exception of one study that showed a positive effect of training interview skills on attitudes. Methods for cultural adaptation of interventions were rarely documented. The methodological quality of most studies was relatively low, with the exception of two studies.
CONCLUSIONS: There is an increase in studies on anti-stigma interventions among professional students in LMICs. Some of these studies used contact interventions and showed positive effects. A stronger focus on clinical and communication skills and behaviour-related outcomes is needed in future studies.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.