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Project-lead: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gaebel


Contact: Dipl.-Psych. Harald Zäske (email: ) und Dipl.-Psych. Franziska Niedermeyer (email: )

LVR-Klinikum Düsseldorf, Kliniken der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

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Group intervention to strengthen stigma coping competence and empowerment in persons with mental illnesses (STEM)

Project running time: June 2011 to May 2014


Objective: In the first 12 months of the project, a group intervention was developed and manualised for persons suffering from schizophrenia or depression. In the following 24 months, this intervention will be examined in terms of its effectiveness in a cluster-randomised control group study. The aim is to improve quality of life and stigma coping competence as well as to strengthen empowerment (autonomy, self-determination) and to reduce self-stigmatisation (internalisation of negative social stereotype). The intervention is embedded in customary psychoeducation offers and tested in various care settings (inpatient, partial-inpatient, outpatient primary care and inpatient rehabilitation).


Background: The stigma of persons with mental illnesses constitutes a severe additional burden for the sufferers. Negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviour towards them have a negative effect on the utilisation behaviour and negatively influence the course of illness, compliance, self-esteem as well as social functioning. Moreover, self-stigmatising attitudes impair the quality of life and lead to social withdrawal.


Intervention: In contrast to previous approaches to combat stigma, which primarily start from education about mental illnesses in various target groups, in the study, a group-therapeutic intervention as a supplement to existing group offers should be conducted which primarily imparts competences to cope with stigma. The intervention consists of three sessions embedded in a psychoeducation course and a booster session after six weeks. A group-therapeutic approach is the method of choice as the patients can act as mutual role models.


Methods: In 24 participating (university) clinics, rehabilitation clinics and registered physicians' practices, a total of 512 patients are recruited. Half of the centres conduct the intervention, while the other half carry out a customary group psychoeducation. In order to check the effectiveness of the intervention, primary (quality of life) and secondary target criteria (self-stigmatisation, empowerment, self-esteem, functional ability, course of illness, compliance and utilisation behaviour) will be measured both before and after the intervention, after the booster session and 12 months after the intervention.

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