Social Network and Media Effects on Mental Illness Stigma

Just over half of Americans with severe mental illness must overcome barriers to receiving care, while others do not receive care, or get insufficient care. One barrier to care is the stigma associated with mental illness. While Americans better understand mental illness and its causes as being biological and genetic (Link et al. 1999), individuals continue to fear and avoid persons with mental illness (Pescosolido et al. 1999; Martin et al. 2000, Stuart & Arboleda-Florez 2000). Public service campaigns attempt to reduce stigma, but limited understanding of how social networks and the media interact and impact the societal problem of stigma reduce their effectiveness.

The Social Network & Media Effects on Mental Illness Stigma study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and led by Co-Investigators Bernice A. Pescosolido, Annie Lang, Jack K. Martin, and J. Scott Long, is designed to improve that understanding. This three-part study:

A funding supplement to this project was awarded in 2004-05 to examine a new Public Service Campaign (See the PSA clips below). Three public service announcements were tested to determine how the target audience (18-25 year olds) responded to the announcements. One of the PSAs elicited noticeable responses, and resulted in a reduction of the viewers' stigmatizing attitudes. The initial results of the PSA study were presented at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) National Convention, held in San Diego, CA, June 2007.

To view the PSAs:


Ad Council National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign