Psychiatrists stand at a unique intersection: we are where medical science
and mental health meet.
We are differentiated from primary care physicians, even as the specialty
of psychiatry is a key part of the house of medicine.
Likewise, we are distinguished from other mental health care professionals
because we identify and treat the biological causes, as well as emotional
bases, for mental
But none of this matters if the public doesn't understand how these facts
can impact their lives. We have to connect the dots. We must tell our story in
a way that engages people.FIG2
In recent months, APA, through its Office of Communications and Public
Affairs (OCPA), has been building a strong foundation for a major
public-information campaign that will take place in May, which is Mental
First, we have brought in a public relations firm, Porter Novelli. It is a
national leader in social marketing—the application of marketing
techniques to help solve important problems in our society. APA is taking on
two such problems with this campaign: we are tackling stigma head on, and we
will help put a new, more inclusive face on psychiatry.
Second, we have conducted primary and secondary research into what the
public thinks about psychiatrists, other care professionals, mental health,
and mental illnesses.
The secondary research identified the health care decision maker in the
average American family: mom, usually between the ages of 30 and 54, who often
has her own health concerns and perhaps concerns for a child, an elderly
parent, or a spouse or partner. These are the "health care
gatekeepers," the mothers who take the time to vote, and the"
first responders" to our message.
Our primary research drew from this audience by inviting women to four
focus groups conducted in January. We were amazed at what we learned:
Third, in conjunction with the APA leadership, membership, and district
branches and state associations, we will launch our campaign with new
advertising and new educational materials, including an updated "Let's
Talk Facts" brochure series. Radio and television public service
announcements will air, and high-profile advertising will appear in
Newsweek and Family Circle magazines. In addition, APA will
roll out a new consumer information Web site in May,<www.healthyminds.org>.
We will also have a new logo for this public information campaign, as well
as a new tagline: "Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives."
There are two reasons for the new "marks." The official APA
logo—the line drawing of Benjamin Rush, M.D., that dates back to the
1890s—has the potential to alienate the very audience we are seeking to
reach. And second, the tagline focuses on consumer benefit. It's not enough to
say what psychiatry is; we must explain why our profession matters to people's
Through various APA events and meetings, I have come to know psychiatrists
all over the country—every one of whom defies whatever stereotypes
exist. It's time for a more accurate portrayal of psychiatry in the media and
This campaign will be launched in Mental Health Month, but it also ushers
in a new era for us and for patients. To all district branch/state
associations and members: Please join with me in using the materials OCPA has
developed for this campaign to help end stigma and reveal psychiatrists as the
caring, patient-centered physicians we are. ▪