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Professional News
SAMHSA Tries New Strategy In Battle Against Stigma
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 1 page 7-7

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in partnership with the Ad Council, launched a national awareness public service announcement (PSA) campaign in December that is designed to decrease negative attitudes toward mental illness and encourage young adults to support friends who have mental health problems.

Created pro bono by the Grey Worldwide advertising company, the PSA campaign is intended to encourage individuals aged 18 to 25 to provide support to their friends who have a mental illness. The PSAs were distributed to more than 28,000 media outlets nationwide.

"We took a new approach to destigmatizing mental illness with this campaign," said U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Eric Broderick, SAMHSA's acting deputy administrator.

"Instead of telling people why they shouldn't discriminate against people with mental illnesses, we are showing how friends can be supportive of those who have disclosed they are having a mental health problem and the critical role that friendship plays in recovery."

SAMHSA reported in its 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that an estimated 24.6 million adults aged 18 to 25 experienced serious psychological distress (SPD)—18.6 percent of people in that age group, compared with 11.3 percent among all adults—which is highly correlated with mental illness.

The researchers defined SPD as an overall indicator of past-year, nonspecific psychological distress that is constructed from the K6 scale administered to adults aged 18 or older in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The young-adult group also had the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors among the adult population as a whole.

In conjunction with the launch of the PSA campaign, the latest Health Styles Survey, which is conducted annually by Porter Novelli, a Washington, D.C.-based public-relations firm, was released. The survey found that 85 percent of Americans believe people with mental illness are not to blame for their conditions, but only 1 in 4 believes that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward those with mental illness.

These findings were derived from data collected in response to questions about the public's attitudes toward mental illness that SAMHSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested Porter Novelli include in this year's survey of attitudes about mental illness. The data, which the agencies licensed from Porter Novelli, also show that only about 25 percent of young adults believe that people with mental illness can recover, but 54 percent of those who know people with these conditions believe that if they receive treatment, these individuals can lead normal lives.

SAMHSA is collaborating with the National institute of Mental Health and other federal, state, and local agencies to conduct antistigma initiatives. Also involved are medical and other clinician organizations and consumer and family groups.

SAMHSA has published a resource guide titled "Developing a Stigma Reduction Initiative," which can be ordered by phone at (800) 789-2647. The antistigma ads are posted at<www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov>.

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