April 20, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

New Report Calls for Coordinated, Multidecade National Effort to Reduce Negative Attitudes and Behavior Toward People With Mental and Substance Use Disorders

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should lead efforts among federal partners and stakeholders to design, implement, and evaluate a multipronged, evidence-based national strategy to reduce stigma toward people with mental and substance use disorders, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Many private and public organizations in the U.S. -- including eight federal agencies -- are already engaged in anti-stigma and mental health promotion efforts, but these efforts are largely uncoordinated and poorly evaluated.

 

The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report looked at the results of U.S. campaigns related to HIV/AIDS and at anti-stigma campaigns in England (Time to Change), Canada (Opening Minds), and Australia (beyondblue).  It found that all successful national anti-stigma programs were supported by government at the federal level and took place over decades, relied on long-term funding, were evaluated and monitored on an ongoing basis, and had a multifaceted strategy to address the full range of relevant needs.      

 

“Mental health and substance use disorders are prevalent and among the most highly stigmatized health conditions in the United States, and they remain barriers to full participation in society in areas as basic as education, housing, and employment,” said committee chair David Wegman, professor emeritus in the department of work environment at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.  “Changing stigma in a lasting way will require coordinated efforts, which are based on the best possible evidence, supported at the national level with multiyear funding, and planned and implemented by an effective coalition of representative stakeholders."

 

Estimates indicate that as many as 1 in 4 Americans will experience a mental health problem or will misuse alcohol or drugs at some point.  In a 2014 national survey, 14 percent of adults in the U.S. said they had experienced a mental health problem within the past year, and 4 percent said that they had experienced a serious mental illness -- one that met standard diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  In another U.S. survey, 24 million people aged 12 and older (9.4 percent of the population) said they had used illicit drugs in the past month, and 17 million people reported alcohol dependence or misuse.

 

Norms and beliefs about people with behavioral health and substance use disorders are created and reinforced at multiple levels, including day-to-day contact with affected individuals, employers and other organizational policies and practices, community norms, the media, and governmental law and policy. HHS should collaborate with all stakeholders, particularly the criminal justice system and government and state agencies, to identify and eliminate policies, practices, and procedures that directly or indirectly discriminate against people with mental and substance use disorders.

 

For the national strategy led by HHS, the relevant stakeholders include people in treatment for mental and substance use disorders and their families, insurance companies, employers, health care providers and administrators, law enforcement officials, and professional health education institutions.  A multipronged approach should include educational programs, traditional and social media campaigns, legal and policy interventions, and contact based-programs -- those efforts that facilitate social contact between people with and without behavioral disorders and that have the strongest evidence base for reducing stigma.

 

The report also includes recommendations for future research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the characteristics of effective peer service training programs, the relationship between attitudes and actual behavior toward people with mental and substance use disorders, and formative research on effective communication to assist in developing interventions and tailoring them for target audiences.

 

The committee noted that “stigma” is used in peer-reviewed literature and by the general public to refer to a range of negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about mental and substance use disorders.  SAMHSA is moving away from the use of this term.

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.orgA committee roster follows.

 

Contacts:

Dana Korsen, Media Officer

Rebecca Ray, Media Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

national-academies.org/newsroom

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Copies of Ending Discrimination Against People With Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

 

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences

 

Committee on the Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms

 

David H. Wegman (chair)

Professor Emeritus

Department of Work Environment

University of Massachusetts at Lowell

Cambridge

 

Beth Angell

Associate Professor

School of Social Work

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N.J.

 

Joseph N. Capella

Gerald R. Miller Professor of Communication

Annenberg School for Communication

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

 

Patrick W. Corrigan

Distinguished Professor of Psychology

Department of Psychology

Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago

 

William L. Holzemer*

Dean and Distinguished Professor

College of Nursing

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N.J.

 

Clarence Jordan

Vice President, Wellness and Recovery

Beacon Health Options

Boston

 

Annie Lang

Distinguished Professor of Telecommunications and Cognitive Science

Department of Telecommunications

Indiana University

Bloomington

 

Rebecca Palpant Shimkets

Associate Director

The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism

The Carter Center

Atlanta

 

Bernice A. Pescosolido

Distinguished Professor of Sociology

Department of Sociology

Indiana University

Bloomington

 

Ruth Shim

Vice Chair of Education and Faculty Development

Department of Psychiatry

Lenox Hill Hospital

New York City

 

Eric R. Wright

Professor of Sociology and Public Health

Georgia State University

Atlanta

 

STAFF

 

Lisa M. Vandemark

Staff Officer

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*Member, National Academy of Medicine