Abstract Background Mental health has been integrated in the primary health care program in small cities and villages of Iran in a national level since the late 1980s. We performed a systematic review of literature to investigate the effect of education on change in attitude and knowledge of mental health care providers and the population covered in the program during the recent two decades in Iran. Methods Electronic bibliographic databases including Pubmed, PsycINFO and EMBase as well as the main Iranian databases (Scientific Information Database, IranMedex, IranPsych, and IranDoc) were searched. Additionally, hand searching, personal contacts and tracking of reference lists were performed. All of the studies which compared the attitude and knowledge of the related population before and after an educational intervention were recruited. Results Six articles met the inclusion criteria and entered the review. All of these studies showed an improvement in the attitude and knowledge of the studied population. Although the studies were different in many respects, a meta-analysis on the two more similar studies showed a significant effect of training on long term improvement of the knowledge and attitude of the population. Conclusion A short term training improved knowledge and attitude of the population and health personnel immediately after the intervention. There is also evidence for a long term change in the attitude and knowledge of general population after short term training.