Impact of the first national campaign against the stigma of mental illness

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BackgroundEgypt experienced its first nationally televised antistigma campaign in 2007. This independent study aims at a scientific evaluation of the potential benefits of this campaign.MethodsTwo educational clips lasting 1 or 2 min each were aired daily on prime time television between 1 and 31 October 2007. Five messages were relayed as the clip rolled on. A specially designed questionnaire covering six areas was used; these included demographics, identifying those who have seen the clips, memory and opinion about each message, stigma-related attitudes, and behavior toward the mentally ill persons. Twenty mental health workers with experience in field work ranging in training from 1 to 13 years received two training sessions. The questionnaire was piloted on 82 participants and subsequently modified. A total of 3000 participants who consented to being interviewed were selected to participate. The data of 2274 participants from the Greater Cairo region are reported in this study (75.8%).ResultsThe study sample is more representative of the younger, as only 21% of the sample were above 46 years, educated, as only 18% were illiterate, married, as 55% of the sample were married, and employed sections of the population. A total of 55% reported that daily life stressors were the cause of mental illness. Only 17% of the study sample actually acknowledged seeing the antistigma adverts (campaign exposed, CE) and 83% were campaign unexposed. There were no statistically significant demographic differences between both groups. Among those who saw the campaign adverts, a significant proportion reported a number of positive effects on attitude and behavior. However, when CE and campaign unexposed participants were compared, no statistically significant differences emerged. A total of 50% of the participants remembered that mental illness is curable. The question that psychiatric patients are dangerous to self or others showed a statistically significant difference between participants who were CE and those who were not exposed.ConclusionThe public were willing to express their opinions as they showed significant cooperativeness and validity of their answers, especially those exposed to the campaign. The television is the medium of choice that the public prefer is the evidence stated in the paper. The antistigma media campaign leads to changes in the attitude of participants who are exposed to mental illness. Positive messages influenced attitude change more.

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