Association News
Public Will Soon Learn More About Psychiatry
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 1 page 13-21

Setting the tone for a meeting replete with substantive issues, the director of APA's Office of Communications and Public Affairs (OCPA) presented to APA's Board of Trustees last month a comprehensive and multipronged strategy to advance APA's mission and goals.

The four specific outcomes to be achieved, Lydia Sermons-Ward explained, are to improve the public image of APA and psychiatry in general, improve the way APA coordinates and distributes information, boost the awareness of mental health issues among those who use or could potentially use mental health services, and enhance the public's understanding of the importance of psychiatrists compared with other mental health care clinicians.

The centerpiece of OCPA's communications plan is a national public-awareness campaign to improve understanding of mental illness and psychiatrists' unique skills in treating it.

A key goal of the program, which will cost about $500,000 to implement, is to reduce, through a public-education campaign, the stigma that stubbornly surrounds mental illness and its treatment. The effort is designed to make not only the public, but also policymakers and the media aware of APA's concerns and goals, explained Sermons-Ward, who in June joined APA as director of the OCPA. District branches and state associations will have the opportunity to participate as partners in the project, she said.

A key strategy to achieve the campaign's goals is an extensive media-outreach, advertising, and public-service-announcement effort. This will consist of holding meetings with editors, reporters, and others who can shape coverage of mental health issues and updating APA's list of psychiatry experts trained to deal with the media, with the goals of expanding positive media coverage and raising APA's profile in the media. Much of the campaign will be carried out by the public-relations firm Porter Novelli.

The funds for the new public-relations initiatives were part of APA's 2005 operating budget of approximately $55 million, which the Board passed at the December meeting (see pie charts). Included in the budget is $300,000 to assist district branches in activities related to membership recruitment and retention, public affairs, meetings, and education. Funds will be distributed via a competitive-grant process to be overseen by the Council on Member and District Branch Relations.

Also included in the budget are funds for a new Office of International Affairs and a staff member to support the Council on Global Psychiatry.

On the membership front, the Board voted to offer a 50 percent reduction in their current dues rate for certain retired members. To qualify, members must be aged 70 or older and fully retired from the profession. They will continue to receive all APA benefits. In 2004 APA had about 1,300 dues-paying members aged 70 or above, and their dues billings totaled about $300,000.

The Trustees also agreed to provide a dues rebate to nonmembers who join APA at the annual meeting. They would pay the nonmember registration fee, and once the appropriate district branch approves their membership application, they would receive a rebate of the difference between the registration fee they paid and the lower fee granted to members.

In other actions, the Board voted to

A summary of actions from the Board of Trustees' December meeting is posted online at<www.psych.org> under Members Corner.

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