Helping Friends With Mental Illness

Ad Council PSAs Promote Understanding Among Young Adults

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As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Ad Council and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration today unveiled a new series of public service announcements focusing on increasing awareness of mental health problems among young adults. The effort was created to educate adults 18 to 25 about these problems and encourage them to support friends and family who are experiencing mental illness.

A new 2009 HealthStyles Survey from SAMHSA and Porter Novelli shows that 72% of adults 18 to 24 believe that a person with mental illness would improve with treatment and support, but only 33% believe a person can eventually recover and 22% believe that people are generally caring and sympathetic to those with mental illness. According to SAMHSA, 9.8 million U.S. adults 18 and older live with serious mental illness, with the highest concentration in the 18-to-25 age category. At the same time, this group is least likely to get services or counseling.

The new TV and online PSAs were created by Grey, New York, and encourage young adults to help friends through recovery. They also promote the campaign website, which includes a discussion forum, tools for helping people in the recovery process and real-life stories demonstrating how support can help a person recover.

"The best thing you can do for a friend dealing with a mental illness is everything you've already been doing," said Rob Baiocco, exec VP-executive creative director of Grey, New York, in announcing the effort.

The new PSAs are part of the Ad Council-SAMHSA Campaign for Mental Health Recovery, which launched in December 2006 and includes an effort targeted at African-Americans that was released in February. Campaigns designed for Hispanic Americans, Chinese Americans and Native Americans will be released this summer.

"For nearly 5 years we have partnered with SAMHSA to address societal misperceptions regarding mental health problems," said Peggy Conlon, president-CEO of the Ad Council. "We are calling on all young adults to support a loved one or friend who is dealing with a mental health problem so they will have a better chance at recovery."