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Attitudes toward mental illness : results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Published Date:
    2012
  • Language:
    English
Filetype[PDF - 8.73 MB]


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Attitudes toward mental illness : results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Details:
  • Corporate Authors:
    Center for Mental Health Services (U.S.) ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.) ; Emory University. Carter Center. Mental Health Program. ; ... More ▼
  • Description:
    Executive summary -- Background -- Methodology -- Key findings in surveyed states -- Resources for states to address mental illness stigma -- References -- Appendix A: Mental Health-related and BRFSS indicators -- Appendix B: State-specific data tables.

    In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collaborated to track state-level attitudes toward mental illness. Following recommendations from the 2002 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, these agencies sought to examine public perceptions regarding treatment effectiveness and perceptions regarding people being caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. This collaboration paralleled the release of a SAMHSA national anti-stigma campaign, What a Difference a Friend Makes, designed to help young adults support friends with a mental health problem. Two questions that asked about attitudes toward mental illness, along with other questions about mental illness symptoms, were included on the CDC-supported Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). These questions comprised the BRFSS Mental Illness and Stigma Module. In 2007, 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico received SAMHSA support to collect data using the BRFSS Mental Illness and Stigma Module, and, in 2009, 16 states received support to do so. While a 2010 CDC study published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC, 2010) described some limited findings, the goals of this study were to expand on the previous analysis to (1) provide state-level estimates of attitudes toward mental illness by select socio-demographic factors, mental illness symptoms, and mental health treatment; (2) examine individual (e.g., age, race/ethnicity) and state-level predictors (e.g., per capita expenditures on mental health services; the average annual unemployment rate; and exposure to the What a Difference a Friend Makes campaign) on attitudes toward mental illness; (3) highlight population subgroups who strongly disagree with the statements (i.e., a vulnerable group) for each state; and (4) provide resources and strategies for targeting these groups, and combating stigma in general.

    This study found that most adults (>80%) in the states surveyed agreed that mental illness treatment is effective, but substantially fewer adults (35%–67%) agreed that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. Some population subgroups (e.g., black, non-Hispanic adults, Hispanic adults, those with less than a high school education) were more likely to strongly disagree that treatment is effective. Women, adults with chronic disease (e.g., arthritis, heart disease), and adults who were unemployed or unable to work were more likely to strongly disagree that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. In general, adults with mental illness symptoms, including those receiving treatment for a mental health problem were less likely to agree that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness.

    Adults who lived in states with higher per capita expenditures on mental health services were more likely to agree that treatment is effective, and were more likely to report receiving treatment. Adults who lived in areas with more mental health professionals were more likely to agree that other people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. Young adults (ages 18–24) who lived in states with greater donated media time for SAMHSA’s What a Difference a Friend Makes campaign were more likely to agree that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness.

    These BRFSS data demonstrate the feasibility and usefulness of tracking attitudes toward mental illness at the state level as well as for assessment, program development, and evaluation of public health anti-stigma activities.

    Suggested citation: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors, National Institute of Mental Health, The Carter Center Mental Health Program. Attitudes Toward Mental Illness: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Atlanta (GA); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.

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