A California social marketing campaign designed to reduce the stigma and discrimination of mental illness appears to be encouraging more people to seek treatment for psychological distress, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Based on findings so far, the campaign will most likely lead to a significant increase in employment for those with mental health issues, giving a strong boost to the state’s economy.
“We found evidence that the stigma-reduction efforts are reaching California residents who are in psychological distress, and as many as 120,000 may have received services as a result of exposure to these campaigns,” said Scott Ashwood, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
“We know that when people receive effective treatment they are more likely to be employed and to contribute more to the state’s economic well-being.”
For every $1 invested in the stigma-reduction effort, the state should receive an estimated $36 through higher tax collections, the analysis found. Looking more broadly at the state’s economy, the researchers estimate the stigma-reduction program could generate $1,251 in economic benefits over several decades for every $1 invested.
“So each dollar California invests in this type of effort is projected to return many dollars in dividends through higher personal earnings, improved worker productivity and increased state tax revenue,” said Ashwood.
For the analysis, the researchers looked at the California Well-Being Survey, which assessed the impact of the state’s mental health prevention and early intervention programs on individuals who are experiencing psychological distress.
Researchers also surveyed a sample of 1,066 California residents who had reported mild to serious psychological distress when they previously took part in the California Health Interview Survey, a statewide survey about a broad array of health issues. The researchers found that 35 percent of those questioned had been exposed to the social marketing campaign and were more likely to have received mental health treatment during the previous year.
Based on these findings, it is estimated that up to 22 percent more California adults with psychological distress received services for their mental health challenges as a result of their exposure to the stigma reduction social media campaign.
“Changing the conversation around mental health stigma has grown into a global movement and this study shows California is at the forefront in breaking down barriers so all Californians can live mentally well,” said Wayne Clark, executive director of the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), which sponsored the study.
“This study demonstrates that CalMHSA’s programs are effectively targeting Californians with mental health needs, improving help-seeking, and delivering an outstanding return on investment for California.”
Applying previous research that linked mental health treatment with increased employment and other benefits, the RAND study estimates that about 3,000 additional California adults would become employed as a result of treatment.
Furthermore, researchers estimated that many additional people would be more productive in the workplace after receiving mental health treatment.
The findings suggest that even if as few as 3,547 adults seek mental health treatment as a result of the stigma-reduction campaign, the state government would break even on its investment in the stigma reduction campaign.
“Our report didn’t measure other benefits of stigma reduction, like improved personal relationships and being more productive in one’s life outside of work. So we may have underestimated the full benefit of the state’s efforts to reduce the stigma of mental health issues,” said Rebecca Collins, Ph.D., a co-author of the report and a RAND senior behavioral scientist.
Source: RAND Corporation