Improving treatment-seeking attitudes by reducing treatment seeking stigma via a web-based program
Despite the potential benefits of mental health treatment, a substantial proportion of those with a diagnosable mental health disorder do not seek treatment, and treatment-seeking stigma has been cited as a major reason. Several interventions have been developed to affect treatmentseeking stigma, but with limitations. Limitations of previous interventions include lack of generalizability to other populations, number of sessions and length of sessions were too long, and the format was in a group setting, which may be an obstacle as it is asking the person to attend a session and overcome the barrier that is being targeted (e.g., stigma of seeking help). The current study attempted to addresses these limitations by offering a brief intervention that can be completed individually by anyone with internet access. Furthermore, treatment-seeking stigma has been conceptualized as the reduction of self-esteem for seeking treatment. In an effort to address fears of threats to self-esteem, the current intervention used Unconditional Self- Acceptance techniques. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral techniques were implemented to target distorted thinking that can be associated with seeking treatment and labeling the self as an individual with mental illness. Using a pretest-posttest design, 74 participants completed a brief web-based intervention aimed at reducing treatment-seeking stigma and improving self-esteem, and thereby attempting to improve attitudes towards seeking mental health treatment. Comparing pretest with posttest scores on attitudes and self-esteem using paired samples t-tests neared statistical significance. After accounting for the effects of categorical control variables, changes in self-esteem predicted changes in treatment-seeking stigma, and changes in treatment-seeking stigma predicted changes in attitudes. Implications of the findings, clinical applications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.