Reducing mental health-related stigma in primary health care settings in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review

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Journal Article

Publication Date



Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences




Education psychiatric; mental illness stigma; primary care; systematic reviews


© 2018 Cambridge University Press. AimsThis systematic review compiled evidence on interventions to reduce mental health-related stigma in primary health care (PHC) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Studies targeting PHC staff (including non-professionals) were included. Primary outcomes were stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviours.MethodsData 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, PHC staff and LMICs. A qualitative analysis of all included full-texts was done with software MAXQDA. Full-texts were analysed with regards to the content of interventions, didactic methods, mental disorders, cultural adaptation, type of outcome measure and primary outcomes. Furthermore, a risk of bias assessment was undertaken.ResultsA total of 18 studies were included. Risk of bias was rated as high in most included studies. Only six studies had tested their intervention against a control condition, two of which had used random allocation. Most frequently used interventions were lectures providing theoretical information. Many studies also used interactive methods (N = 9), discussed case studies (N = 8) or used role plays (N = 5). Three studies reported that they had used clinical practice and supervision. Results of these studies were mixed. No or little effects were found for brief training interventions (e.g. 1 h to 1 day). Longer training interventions with more sophisticated didactic methods produced statistically significant changes in validated stigma questionnaires. These results have to be interpreted with caution due to risk of bias. Methods for cultural adaptation of interventions were rarely documented.ConclusionsMore rigorous trials are needed in LMICs to test interventions that target discriminatory behaviours in relationship with patients. Cultural adaptation of stigma interventions and structural/institutional factors should be more explicitly addressed in such trials.

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