Sixty Second Interview with Paul Corry

Sixty Second Interview with Paul Corry

A month-long anti-stigma campaign run by mental health charity Rethink in Norwich had a significant effect on local people’s attitudes, according to research published earlier this month.

The independent public opinion survey found the number of people prepared to admit to a mental health problem doubled and those who thought people with schizophrenia would do something violent fell by eight per cent. Simeon Brody spoke to Paul Corry, Rethink’s director of public affairs, about the findings.

Why did you decide to run your own anti-stigma campaign?

People with severe mental illness consistently report stigma and discrimination as the biggest barriers to social inclusion, access to services and recovery. While there are major PR-led campaigns to combat stigma in Scotland (See Me) and New Zealand (Like Minds, Like Mine) and plans to introduce them in the United States, the English government’s approach has been low key and poorly funded.

Rethink’s month-long anti-discrimination site pilot in Norwich in March was designed to provide an evidence base to show that such an approach here could prove successful in raising awareness and shifting negative public attitudes to mental ill health.

Why did you choose Norwich as the setting?

The campaign focused on Norwich because of its higher than average per capita usage of anti-depressants and higher than average incidence of self-harm.

What did the campaign involve?

The month-long campaign opened with a media briefing at which the Regional Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses talked of his experience of suicidal thoughts. The launch attracted attention from local TV, radio and newspapers. Poster adverts were carried inside and outside local buses, at bus stands and Norwich rail station. These were supported by radio advertisements on local stations.

A statue of Winston Churchill in a straitjacket was unveiled to the media in the town centre mid way through the campaign. The statue was supported by explanatory leaflets and human guides to explain its symbolism of the man voted “Greatest Briton” struggling against and overcoming his own mental health problem.

We believe that it was the first time that a mental health charity in England ran a campaign that brought together advertising, public relations and street activism to challenge discrimination. It was also the first time that any mental health organisation used an element as controversial as the Churchill statue.

What did you hope to achieve during the campaign?

Our main objectives were to provide an evidence base for the effectiveness of high-profile, public-facing activity in combating mental health discrimination but also raise public awareness of mental health by challenging negative public attitudes.

Do you believe you achieved it?

Yes absolutely. The debate and media attention generated from this campaign was tremendous and more importantly the benchmark and post-campaign public opinion survey carried out by an independent company showed a positive shift in public attitude towards mental illness. Some of the results included are below:-

Pre-campaign: 15 per cent of people said they had experienced a mental health problem
Post campaign: 30 per cent of people said they had experienced a mental health problem

Pre-campaign: 32 per cent of people thought a person with the early signs of schizophrenia would go on to do something violent to someone else
Post campaign: 24 per cent of people thought a person with the early signs of schizophrenia would go on to do something violent to someone else

More results can be found here

How is Rethink planning to react to the findings of the opinion survey ?

We are rolling out the campaign – minus Winston Churchill! – across Northern Ireland in January and February 2007, and taking the findings to as many people in government, the media and across mental health as possible.
Are there any messages for the government or other agencies?

Yes, the approach works here, just as it does in Scotland and New Zealand. Now is the time to provide support for a long-term, properly funded campaign that marries direct-to-public advertising with service user and carer activism on the ground.

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