This study considers the effect of an educational presentation about mental illness on adolescent knowledge and attitudes toward the mentally ill. Six behavioral case descriptions (adapted from Star, 1954) with a social distance questionnaire and a 20 item true-false questionnaire were used to measure attitudes toward and knowledge about mental illness both before and after an educational presentation. Adolescents identified the paranoid schizophrenic case description as mental illness significantly more often than they identified the other case descriptions as mental illness. Adolescents were least comfortable, on the social distance scale, with behavior that can be labeled schizophrenic and with behavior consistent with character disorder. No gender differences were found for either attitudes toward or knowledge about mental illness. Previous acquaintance with a mentally ill person is related to more knowledge and better attitudes about mental illness. Students' scores reflected a significant increase in correct information and positive attitudes toward mental illness after participation in the educational presentation. A trend toward more positive attitudes was found after interaction with those with mental illness. Adolescents can be effectively educated about mental illness and this education makes a difference in attitudes toward mental illness.
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