SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)
Nassau County Campaign to End Stigma and Discrimination
Hempstead, New York
The Nassau County Campaign to End Stigma and Discrimination is a countywide initiative launched on September 21, 2006. It was developed by the Mental Health Association of Nassau County (Hempstead, NY) to end stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses. This two-pronged public education program aims to eradicate the shame and stigma around mental illnesses, while increasing public awareness of services.
The U.S. Surgeon General reports that one in five people experience a mental illness in any given year. Given Nassau County?s population of 1.3 million and the prevalence of mental illness, 260,000 individuals within the county?including men, women, and children?are affected by mental illnesses. Yet, less than half will actually seek and receive treatment.
To improve the rates of people accessing and obtaining the necessary services to recover from mental illnesses, the Mental Health Association of Nassau County and its community partner agencies recognized the need for an assertive, local anti-stigma campaign. They developed a campaign to educate the public about the need for compassionate advocacy on behalf of people with mental illnesses and to encourage those affected by mental illness to get help.
Under the guidance of the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, a steering committee formed, comprised of representatives from each stakeholding segment of the mental health community: consumers and their families; advocates; and clinical, administrative, and outreach service providers for children and adults. Together, they agreed that an assertive campaign must include consumer messages, facts and images of hope, concrete information on how to access services, educational materials about mental illnesses, advocacy information to promote full access to mental health treatment, cultural competence, and speakers and instructive programs to deliver the anti-stigma message personally to community organizations in order to effect change.
Specific, measurable activities helped to accomplish the campaign?s objectives of eradicating the shame and stigma around mental illnesses while increasing public awareness of services. These included:
- Development and placement of public service spots on radio and in print.
- Placement of newspaper features and stories in Long Island media.
- Development of a regional section in Mental Health News that features the Nassau system and encourages consumers to take advantage of opportunities for recovery.
- Specific outreach to target communities (e.g., Latino, African-American, and youth).
- Formation of a speakers' bureau comprising mental health experts from participating agencies.
- Promotion of self-help and support group opportunities in the county.
The campaign features a series of eight posters-including two Spanish editions and one teen-focused version-a free 'Guide to Understanding Mental Illness' brochure, print and radio public service announcements, and public speaking forums.
The headline for all campaign materials is 'One in five people will experience a mental illness,' adding that 'Mental illness doesn't discriminate, and neither should you. Give everyone in our community a chance-with employment, with housing, and most of all, with respect. You can make a difference.' The Mental Health Association?s information and referral HELPline phone number and Web site address are provided on the print materials to encourage people to connect with local resources that promote mental health and to foster equal acceptance of all community members.
The Mental Health Association distributed 1,300 posters and 6,000 brochures explaining how stigma and discrimination hurt and how citizens can help. Reaching 1.85 million Long Island readers, viewers, and listeners, 16 newspapers and Networking Magazine ran articles on the campaign; 10 radio stations aired its 15- or 30-second public service spots; and Telecare TV and News 12 featured the September 21, 2006, launch.
Since then, approximately 100 callers from 24 Nassau towns, as well as Suffolk and Queens, have responded directly to the posters' tagline: "Call today for your free guide to understanding mental illness." Of those, 26 also asked for information and referral.
Another indicator of the campaign's impact has been increased traffic on the Mental Health Association Web site, www.mhanc.org, which is featured in the ads, posters, and brochures. This was one of the measuring criteria established at the outset to evaluate the campaign's effectiveness. Monthly traffic rose from 3,700 hits in August 2006 (the last full month before the campaign's launch) to 8,500 in January 2007-an increase of 4,800 visits, or 130 percent.
On July 13, 2007, the county selected the Mental Health Association of Nassau to receive a second award to be used for the next phase of its anti-stigma initiative. To date, the second phase of the anti-stigma initiative is being developed. The Mental Health Association of Nassau has also partnered with the Campaign for Mental Health Recovery and will incorporate the public service announcements created for the Campaign into their efforts.
For further information on the Nassau County Campaign to End Stigma and Discrimination, contact Jeanne McGough, outreach coordinator, Mental Health Association of Nassau County, at 16 Main Street, Hempstead, NY, 11550; (516) 489-2322, extension 1255; or email@example.com.
To access campaign materials, please visit the Mental Health Association of Nassau County Web site at www.mhanc.org.