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
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
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>.▪