New PSA Campaign Begins with Focus on Younger Americans
> 12/5/2006 10:36:41 AM

A new $1 million public service campaign sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration began running spots on both television and radio today. The new campaign, entitled "What a Difference a Friend Makes," seeks to educate the public about mental health problems with the end goal of decreasing the stigmas that often follow in their wake.

Unlike previous campaigns "What a Difference" doesn't target individuals who already have mental illness, but instead friends and family who can make such a huge difference in the life of someone who is already receiving treatment for disorders like depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. As USA Today writes, the fear of stigmatization persists as one of the single largest barriers to treatment:

In 2005, nearly 25 million people 18 or older had some type of serious psychological distress about 11.3% of the population overall and 18.6% of young adults ages 18 to 24, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Of the 13.5 million people who did not seek treatment, 26% cited as one of their primary reasons the stigma associated with mental illness.

By focusing their attentions on responding to the stigmas surrounding mental illness, the ads, produced by Ad Council, take both a familiar and refreshing approach to the question of mental illness. The spots do a nice job of encouraging respect for mental illness on the part of friends without stepping over into preachiness or guilt trips. You can view all the media offerings from the campaign's website, and we'd specifically recommend the spot entitled "Friends."

It is always encouraging when this type of educational campaign launches on a national level. Putting information about mental illness into the hands of the public remains one of the most powerful steps that we can take in terms of ensuring that those effected by mental illness receive the attention and help that they need. Check out SAMHSAs new ads, and if you know someone dealing with a mental illness, reach out. This new campaign isn't just a catch phrase, it's a maxim that can change lives. Find out what kind of difference a friend can make.


I never really understood why it's almost universally agreed upon goal that, of all the depressed people out there, we should be treating more of them. The people with mental who we treat are either those that come in complaining of psychological distress or who are otherwise not functioning in their daily lives. We have treatments that have been shown to be effective in the latter group. Why do we automatically assume that we can do anything to help those patients in whom symptoms are not severe enough for them to seek treatment? All treatments have costs and side-effects. We may end up doing more harm than good.
Posted by: James 12/6/2006 11:14:49 AM

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