National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign


For Release: March 27, 2008

SAMHSA and Ad Council Debut National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign on College Campuses

 Suicide is the Second Leading Cause of Death among College Students

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), working in collaboration with the Ad Council, announced today a program that has delivered their National Mental Health Anti-Stigma public service advertising (PSA) campaign for the first time directly to colleges and universities throughout the country. The campaign aims to reach 18-25-year-old adults and is designed to decrease the negative attitudes that surround mental illness by encouraging these young adults to support friends with mental health problems. As an extension of the campaign, new materials created specifically for college students have been distributed to colleges and universities nationwide.

Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are widespread in the United States. According to SAMHSA, in 2006 there were an estimated 24.9 million adults aged 18 or older living with serious psychological distress, an indicator highly correlated with serious mental illness.

Among 18-25-year-olds, the prevalence of serious psychological distress is the highest in the adult population, yet this age group was the least likely to receive treatment or counseling.  Young people are more likely to seek help if social acceptance is broadened and they receive support and services early on.

According to fall 2006 data from the National College Health Assessment Report, more than half of all college students in the United States reported feeling "things were hopeless" and more than a third said they have felt during the past school year "so depressed it was difficult to function." Additionally, almost one in 10 students said that they have seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Fear and lack of knowledge about symptoms associated with psychological disorders prevent many young people from getting the help they need," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. "The college campus is an ideal setting to teach the benefits of early intervention and effective mental health treatment."

            In partnership with Alloy Media, the Ad Council and SAMHSA distributed 450,000 campus packs, which included campaign brochures and additional materials for students, to bookstores at more than 200 colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech, American University, Boston College, San Diego State University, Harvard University, Colorado State University, University of Notre Dame and University of Florida, during the fall 2007 semester. In December, Bacchus Network, a non-profit university and community based network focusing on health and safety initiatives, distributed a mental health program manual, as well as campaign PSAs and background materials, to more than 1,100 on-campus peer educators at universities nationwide. Additionally, Active Minds, also a non-profit, distributed 15,000 campaign brochures to over 85 of their campus chapters across the country. Furthermore, SAMHSA released a new dialogue report focusing on mental health on college campuses, Building Bridges: Mental Health on Campus, which is available via a toll-free number, 1-800-789-2647.

"Students on college campuses often face extraordinary emotional challenges resulting from new social and academic pressures," said Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of The Advertising Council. "This critical extension of our campaign with SAMHSA can help reduce the common stigma associated with mental illness on college campuses, and prevent many senseless tragedies."

SAMHSA's National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Mental Health, state mental health agencies, leading researchers on stigma and a broad coalition of stakeholders, including organizations that represent provider organizations and consumer and family member groups. The Campaign held a series of regional meetings to develop a grassroots network to support the Campaign and provide assistance with anti-stigma efforts to states and local communities.

A resource guide entitled, "Developing a Stigma Reduction Initiative," is also a part of the campaign and is based on the evaluation and lessons learned from the Elimination of Barriers Initiative. The guide provides information on how to mount a statewide anti-stigma campaign, examples of outreach materials, reports on the best practices for stigma reduction, and lists important resources for technical assistance. Copies of the guide can be obtained by calling SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-789-2647.

Launched nationwide in December 2006 and created pro bono by Grey Worldwide through the Ad Council, the National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign aims to reach young adults who have friends with mental illnesses. Featuring a voiceover by Tony award-winning actor Liev Schreiber, the television and radio spots illustrate how friendship is critical to recovery. The campaign also includes print, outdoor and interactive advertising that directs audiences to visit a new comprehensive Web site,, to learn more about mental health and what they can do to play a role in their friend's recovery.

To view the ads, please visit The PSAs will air in advertising time that will be entirely donated by the media.

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation's substance abuse prevention, addictions, treatment and mental health services delivery system. SAMHSA can be reached at

               The Advertising Council is a private, non-profit organization that has been the largest producer of PSAs in the nation since 1942. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit

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