SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)
What A Difference A Friend Makes - Mississippi
Launched in January 2007, the What a Difference a Friend Makes in Mississippi campaign was launched by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national Campaign for Mental Health Recovery (CMHR). The goal of the campaign is to reach out to young adults in Mississippi and encourage them to support their friends with mental health problems. The purpose is to dispel the social exclusion associated with mental illness by teaching young adults common myths and facts of mental health issues. The overall mission for the campaign was to impact the youth in Mississippi and help support a better tomorrow...today.
Mental health problems are common and affect most families at some point. Studies have shown that most people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. However, a major barrier to seeking help in Mississippi is the social exclusion that is associated with mental health problems. The goal with this campaign is to fight the prejudice and negative attitudes and shine the light on the truths of mental illness. Another major issue with young adults in Mississippi is suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in Mississippi.
The objective of the campaign was to lead a statewide, public education effort to counter social exclusion and bring down barriers that keep people from seeking treatment by leading statewide efforts. The goal was to reach 300,000 people during the first year of the campaign through the distribution of print materials, speaking engagements, television and radio interviews and newspaper articles. In this same regard, the messages of supporting friends and countering social exclusion have been incorporated into youth suicide prevention presentations in order to further expand the reach of the mental health education that is being provided.
DMH created two statewide Public Service Announcements (PSAs) specifically developed for Mississippi. Though the national CMHR campaign distributed PSAs throughout the United States DMH felt it was important to have a strong grassroots campaign consisting of locally developed television and radio PSAs. DMH developed a PowerPoint presentation combining the message of dispelling the stigma, supporting your friends, and youth suicide prevention.
The first step in achieving the objectives of the campaign was to establish a statewide Anti-Stigma Committee with more than 40 representatives from mental health facilities, community mental health centers, mental health associations, hospitals, other organizations in Mississippi, and mental health consumers. These representatives worked within their area of the State by getting the word out about the campaign.
The first year of the statewide campaign was launched on May 2, 2007 with a press conference in Jackson in conjunction with May as Mental Health Month. More than 80 people attended the press conference along with television, radio and newspaper representatives. The speaker, Teresa Mosley, discussed the death of her 15-year-old daughter who completed suicide after a struggle with anxiety and depression. She discussed the difference supportive friends can make in the life of a young adult.
DMH and other committee members worked with high schools and colleges across the state to reach students on campuses via articles in campus newspapers, interviews on college radio stations, and the distribution of flyers and brochures on campus. The committee also focused on targeting community groups throughout the State. Presentations have been made at workshops, civic clubs, schools and many other locations in Mississippi. Many committee members have been conducting staff training in their organizations on mental health friendly workplaces.
Pearl High School drama students became so interested in the campaign that they performed a skit on the effects of social exclusion at the annual Mississippi legislative breakfast of the to more than 200 audience members, many of whom were State legislators. DMH also created a Mississippi Anti-Stigma MySpace page and has received more than 1,000 hits. Not only are committee members involved in the campaign, but in many cases it has become a family affair. One committee member's 13-year-old daughter wrote an article about the campaign for her middle school newspaper.
DMH developed a tracking system for presentations, newspaper/television/radio interviews, and other items for the statewide campaign. Since May 2, 2007 more than 20,000 brochures were distributed statewide. A majority of these brochures were distributed at Mississippi colleges. Over 100 presentations have been conducted, more than 100 newspaper/newsletter articles have been printed about the campaign, and more than 30 television and radio interviews have been conducted. More than 600,000 people have been reached by the campaign in Mississippi.
DMH has also received several awards from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and the Southern Public Relations Federation for their work with the campaign.
For more information on the campaign, contact Wendy Bailey, DMH Public Information Director at 1101 Robert E. Lee Building, 239 N. Lamar Street, Jackson, MS 39201 or 601-359-1288 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To access the Campaign Web page click here.