Background Despite an elevated risk of psychopathology stemming from COVID-19-related stress, many essential workers stigmatise and avoid psychiatric care. This randomised controlled trial was designed to compare five versions of a social-contact-based brief video intervention for essential workers, differing by protagonist gender and race/ethnicity. Aims We examined intervention efficacy on treatment-related stigma (‘stigma’) and openness to seeking treatment (‘openness’), especially among workers who had not received prior mental healthcare. We assessed effectiveness and whether viewer/ protagonist demographic concordance heightened effectiveness. Method Essential workers (N = 2734) randomly viewed a control video or brief video of an actor portraying an essential worker describing hardships, COVID-related anxiety and depression, and psychotherapy benefits. Five video versions (Black/Latinx/White and male/female) followed an identical 3 min script. Half the intervention group participants rewatched their video 14 days later. Stigma and openness were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, and at 14- and 30-day follow-ups. Trial registration: NCT04964570. Results All video intervention groups reported immediately decreased stigma (P < 0.0001; Cohen’s d = 0.10) and increased openness (P < 0.0001; d = 0.23). The initial increase in openness was largely maintained in the repeated-video group at day 14 (P < 0.0001; d = 0.18), particularly among viewers without history of psychiatric treatment (P < 0.0001; d = 0.32). Increases were not sustained at follow-up. Female participants viewing a female protagonist and Black participants viewing a Black protagonist demonstrated greater openness than other demographic pairings. Conclusions Brief video-based interventions improved immediate stigma and openness. Greater effects among female and Black individuals viewing demographically matched protagonists emphasise the value of tailored interventions, especially for socially oppressed groups. This easily disseminated intervention may proactively increase care-seeking, encouraging treatment among workers in need. Future studies should examine intervention mechanisms and whether linking referrals to psychiatric services generates treatment-seeking.
- Essential workers
- openness to seeking treatment