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Success Of Ads Helps Lift Taboo On Mental Illness

A new series of advertisements featuring high profile New Zealanders is starting tonight and building on the success of last year's campaign to lift the taboo surrounding mental illness, says the Ministry of Health.

The Like Minds, Like Mine ad campaign brought out into the open an illness commonly shrouded in shame, misunderstanding and stigma and prompted public interest in finding out more, said Deputy-Director General of Public Health Dr Don Matheson.

"People have been surprised by how common mental illness is -- that it affects one in five New Zealanders and crosses all ages, cultures and professions.

"They've also seen that people with mental illness recover and like the personalities in the ads -- they can be successful, hold down jobs, raise families and contribute a great deal to society."

The new series of ads screening from tonight features well-known people talking about their experience of mental illness. They share the message that supportive friends and family can make a big difference to a person's recovery. The ads also include an 0800 free phone line staffed by Lifeline counsellors for people wanting further information and advice.

"People now want more concrete information about mental illness, they want to know how they can act more responsibly and supportively towards people with a mental illness."

"We are very fortunate that the people featured in the first ads could see how vital it was to continue sharing their experiences with New Zealanders. Their openness and generosity has also allowed us to capture the special relationship they have with their mates, who are also notable kiwi icons."

Dr Matheson said popular Maori and Pacific people had also contributed their time and energy to a series of radio ads that will play on youth, Maori and Pacific radio stations.

He said the 1997 Mason Inquiry into Mental Health Services recommended a public awareness campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

"The Inquiry was at pains to point out that even if services and treatments were successful, gains would be minimal if a person with mental illness was living in a hostile and uninformed community.

"The new ads are an exciting milestone in the Ministry's work to reduce stigma and discrimination. We are optimistic enough to believe that a well-informed public will realise that people with experience of mental illness are not outcasts.

"They're people like our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, workmates and friends -- people whom we should nurture and value."


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