In public-health campaigns to boost support for improvements in the mental health system, messages that link mental illness to violence may be counterproductive, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers asked a nationwide sample of over 1,300 participants to read different versions of a story about a person with mental illness, and then asked whether it increased their willingness to pay more taxes to support improvements in the mental health system. They found that a version emphasizing barriers to treatment worked as well as a version linking mental illness to violence, but without increasing the perceived stigma of mental illness.
“There has been a longstanding debate in the mental health advocacy community about the best way to raise public support for improvements to the chronically underfunded public mental health system,” says study lead author Dr. Emma E. McGinty, an assistant professor of health policy and management and mental health at the Bloomberg School. “Our study suggests that the best strategy is to use non-stigmatizing messages emphasizing systemic barriers to treatment.”
The study is published in the April edition of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.