‘Beat the Stigma’ campaign focuses on mental illness

More than half of nation will be diagnosed with a mental disorder in their lifetime, statistics show.

With suicides increasing within the state of Ohio and more children and young adults facing mental health crises, the state and partnering agencies are turning its attention to reducing the stigma on mental illness to encourage people suffering to get help.

Beat the Stigma, funded by the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, is launching its next round of public service announcements focusing on changing the way people think about mental illness.

Prior to announcing the new “Beat the Stigma” campaign, Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday toured the Miracle Clubhouse at Goodwill Easterseals of Miami Valley. The clubhouse, which is in Dayton, opened about 11 years ago, growing from a handful of members to more than 400, said Lance Detrick, president and CEO of Goodwill Easterseals of Miami Valley.

“We want to see more of these clubhouses,” DeWine said.

“We didn’t make it here on our own,” said Ricky Smith, a member of the Miracle Clubhouse. “I was a mess before I got here. A complete mess.” Smith, who is a military veteran, said that prior to joining the clubhouse, all he could think about was “destruction and death — my own.”

“I had no real direction, and I couldn’t love anybody else because I couldn’t love myself,” Smith said. “There are some people in here if I had not met them, I would probably be dead by now.” Meeting other members of the clubhouse and building those connections changed his life, Smith said.

The previous Beat the Stigma campaign, launched in 2022, initially focused on the disease of addiction. The campaign found 67% of people said it was not a problem if you discriminate against people who are dealing with an addiction.

The campaign also found more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder in their lifetime. It also taught people how addiction is a disease as genetics can increase your chance of developing a drug or alcohol addiction by 50%.

Early measures of the 2022 Beat the Stigma campaign indicated the program, which appeared on broadcast television, streaming services, radio, outdoor advertising and digital and social media, was seen by 91% of all Ohioans.

The harmful effects of stigma, which is a negative belief or attitude, and discrimination, can lead to reduced hope, low self-esteem, increased psychiatric symptoms, difficulties with social relationship, reduced likelihood of staying with treatment and more difficulties at work, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Social campaigns can help combat that stigma and change people’s minds, research from the nonprofit think tank Rand Corporation found. A 2019 study from the Rand Corporation looked at the effectiveness of an anti-stigma social marketing campaign in California. The study concluded the social marketing campaign in California increased service use by leading more people to interpret symptoms of distress as indicating a need for treatment.

Social marketing has potential for addressing underuse of mental health services, the study said. Researchers estimated that if all adults with probable mental illnesses were exposed to the California social campaign, then 47% would receive treatment, compared to an estimate of 36% who would receive treatment if the same adults were not exposed.

While people may not be getting the mental health treatment they need, there is still a growing shortage of professionals available to help. DeWine spoke about the budget proposal he has with the Ohio General Assembly, which includes provisions related to mental health.

Provisions related to bolstering the mental health workforce include funding some of the unpaid internships necessary for people to gain the certifications and requirements needed, as well as incentivizing increasing provider rates.

“We have to be able to keep our employees,” DeWine said.

DeWine and others then aired the first 2023 Beat the Stigma campaign advertisement in a press conference on Wednesday. In the commercial, people were asked how to respond to individuals suffering from anxiety or depression. The commercial included examples of helpful statements that could be said, such as “I’m here for you,” “You’re not alone” and “Talking to someone may help,” instead of phrases such as “Just snap out of it,” “You have no reason to be depressed,” “Push through it,” or “Everyone gets sad sometimes.”

The campaign also includes a challenge at beatthestigma.org where people can go to see if any stigmas they have, but don’t know about, may come to light.

“It’s a chance for us to self reflect,” said Chad Jester, president of the Nationwide Foundation. “It’s recognition for where we all are and where we can be.”

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