Non-Stigmatizing Messages Boost Mental Health Services Support

Narratives on violence, barriers to treatment equally effective for raising support for additional tax
Narratives on violence, barriers to treatment equally effective for raising support for additional tax

HealthDay News — A non-stigmatizing message about serious mental illness (SMI) can increase public support for investing in mental health services, according to a study published online April 1 in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Emma E. McGinty, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a randomized experiment involving 1,326 participants in a nationally representative online panel. Participants were randomly allocated to a control arm or to read 1 of 3 narratives about SMI emphasizing violence, systemic barriers to treatment, or successful treatment and recovery. 

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The researchers found that narratives emphasizing violence or barriers to treatment were equally effective for increasing the inclination to pay additional taxes for improvement of the mental health system (55 and 52%, respectively, compared with 42% in the control arm). Stigma was increased only for the narrative emphasizing the link between SMI and violence.

"For mental health advocates dedicated to improving the public mental health system, these findings offer an alternative to stigmatizing messages linking mental illness and violence," the authors write.

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