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Transforming Public Perceptions of Mental Health


Transforming Public Perceptions of Mental Health:

First comparative research results reveal shift in attitudes towards mental health in New Zealand

Wellington, Friday 26 August 2005 – The Ministry of Health (MoH) together with advertising partner FCB New Zealand today revealed some of the most compelling statistics to come out in eight years on perceptions and attitudes associated with mental illness in New Zealand.

The findings are part of the comprehensive long term communications project and public health campaign ‘Like Minds, Like Mine’, a world-leading initiative aimed at tackling stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental illness. The results compare current perceptions and attitudes to the original 1997 benchmark survey and show a marked improvement in attitudes towards people with mental illnesses, especially those experiencing depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar disorders.

Well known celebrities such as Denise L’Estrange Corbett, John Kirwan and Ian Mune also played a strong hand in tackling the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Through a series of ads created by FCB, famous personalities, and more recently everyday New Zealanders, talked about their experiences with mental illness at some stage in their lives. The ‘mini documentaries’, which played an integral part in the overall success of the public health campaign, highlighted how mental illness affected them and the people around them.

Denise L’Estrange Corbett of World Fashion was not sure if she wanted her depression discussed in the public domain when she was first approached to be involved in the Like Minds campaign. “I really had to think about it. However having done it, I believe that the campaign has single-handedly changed the way people in New Zealand view mental health,” she said.

"The campaign was showing ordinary, high-profile and successful people with mental health issues and it was saying to people that you can have a mental problem and still function. It doesn't mean you are a deadbeat and that you should be locked up! This campaign proves that people with mental illnesses can function within society,” Denise added.

Someone who has kept a close eye on the progress of the project is Mary O’Hagan, Mental Health Commissioner. “The Like Minds social marketing campaign has been more successful than I ever imagined,” she said.

“The evaluations have shown that New Zealand public opinion on mental illness has improved. I believe one of the main reasons for its success lies with the creativity of FCB and their responsiveness to the views of people with mental illness, while keeping their eye on the real audience: the viewing public.”

“The ads have achieved international recognition for their creative content and also for the carefully thought through messages they convey.”

The three-phased advertising campaign shown on television, radio and cinemas played a major role in sustaining the high awareness of mental health issues now found today.

The chief architect of the advertising campaign, FCB General Manager Brian van den Hurk, is one of New Zealand’s leading social marketing specialists. “Mental illness is one of the last taboos of the day and something that has not been well understood in the past. Yet 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives,” he said.

Gerard Vaughan, Like Minds Project Manager at the Ministry of Health said, “The progress we have made is fantastic and it’s great that people are talking about and thinking about mental illness and how they can be more supportive. With a complex issue like this there is a long way to go as people’s attitudes can take a long time to change.”

The comparative results unveiled today will help guide the future direction of the Like Minds, Like Mine public health campaign.


Attached: Overview of research figures


First Comparative Research Results of the eight year mental health project, Like Minds, Like Mine

1997 – 2004 results, including comparisons with 1999 tracking survey

Sample of Raw Data:

1997 - 2004:

- A person with SCHIZOPHRENIA is capable of holding down a job
1997 – 54% agree 2004 - 70% agree

- A person with DEPRESSION is capable of making friends with people
1997 – 38% disagree 2004 – 17% disagree

- A person with SCHIZOPHRENIA is capable of making friends with people
1997 – 12% disagree 2004 – 8% disagree

- A person with DEPRESSION is capable of holding down a job
1997 – 50% agree 2004 – 64% agree

- A person with BI-POLAR is capable of living in a community with other people
1997 – 18% disagree 2004 – 5% disagree

- A person with DEPRESSION is capable of thinking intelligently
1997 – 27% disagree 2004 – 13% disagree

- It is best to AVOID someone with a mental illness:
1997 – 88% disagree 2004 – 93% disagree

1999 - 2004:

Agreement with the following positive statements: (1999 % compared to 2004 %)

People who’ve had a mental illness can still lead a normal life
72 90
People are becoming more accepting of people with mental illness
43 62
I feel I am becoming more accepting of people with mental illness
69 78

Disagreement with the following negative statements:
(1999 % compared to 2004 %)

Once a person gets a mental illness they are always unwell
53 65

People who’ve had a mental illness are never going to be able to contribute much to society
77 89

People who had a mental illness are more likely than other people to be dangerous
27 41

I would feel uncomfortable talking to someone who had a mental illness
61 73

If I got a mental illness I think some of my friends would reject me
30 54

As an indication of “highest” personal acceptance, people who agreed to be willing to accept a person who has had experience of mental illness

(1999 % compared to 2004 %)

As a workmate 69 80

As a next-door neighbour 55 66

As an indication of “highest” personal acceptance, people who agreed to be willing to accept a person who has had experience of schizophrenia

(1999 % compared to 2004 %)

As a workmate 52 60

As a next-door neighbour 47 52

Source: Phoenix Research and BRC

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