Does Mental Illness Stigma Contribute to Adolescent Standardized Patients' Discomfort With Simulations of Mental Illness and Adverse Psychosocial Experiences?
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OBJECTIVE: Adolescent mental illness stigma-related factors may contribute to adolescent standardized patients' (ASP) discomfort with simulations of psychiatric conditions/adverse psychosocial experiences. Paradoxically, however, ASP involvement may provide a stigma-reduction strategy. This article reports an investigation of this hypothetical association between simulation discomfort and mental illness stigma. METHODS: ASPs were randomly assigned to one of two simulation conditions: one was associated with mental illness stigma and one was not. ASP training methods included carefully written case simulations, educational materials, and active teaching methods. After training, ASPs completed the adapted Project Role Questionnaire to rate anticipated role discomfort with hypothetical adolescent psychiatric conditions/adverse psychosocial experiences and to respond to open-ended questions regarding this discomfort. A mixed design ANOVA was used to compare comfort levels across simulation conditions. Narrative responses to an open-ended question were reviewed for relevant themes. RESULTS: Twenty-four ASPs participated. A significant effect of simulation was observed, indicating that ASPs participating in the simulation associated with mental illness stigma anticipated greater comfort with portraying subsequent stigma-associated roles than did ASPs in the simulation not associated with stigma. ASPs' narrative responses regarding their reasons for anticipating discomfort focused upon the role of knowledge-related factors. CONCLUSION: ASPs' work with a psychiatric case simulation was associated with greater anticipated comfort with hypothetical simulations of psychiatric/adverse psychosocial conditions in comparison to ASPs lacking a similar work experience. The ASPs provided explanations for this anticipated discomfort that were suggestive of stigma-related knowledge factors. This preliminary research suggests an association between ASP anticipated role discomfort and mental illness stigma, and that ASP work may contribute to stigma reduction.
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