Perspective on Practice

On page 22 is a report on the 2009 Stress in America survey, part of APA's ongoing Mind/Body Health public education campaign. The survey provides insight into leading sources of stress, creates a platform for educating consumers about the contributions of stress to the development and persistance of chronic illness, and addresses lifestyle and behavioral changes necessary to adequately manage unhealthy levels of stress.

The 2008 stress survey garnered nearly 800 news stories and media coverage valued at $5 million. In 2009, in just the first few days of its release, the survey reached nearly 28 million people through 850 stories on TV, radio, in newspapers, blogs and news and health Web sites. APA has become a leading resource on stress for the media.

For more than a decade, APA's public education campaign has informed Americans about the value of psychological services and the role of psychologists in treating mental health disorders. What initially started as “Talk to Someone Who Can Help,” a campaign that confronted stigma and encouraged individuals with psychological problems to seek help, has evolved into a multi-faceted social marketing campaign that addresses resilience and the mind-body connection.

Social marketing has long been seen by public health organizations and the federal government as the best approach to encourage behavior change and promote disease prevention. APA's current campaign, “For a Healthy Mind and Body … Talk to a Psychologist” is based on the tenets of social marketing, which include the use of consumer research, monitoring audience perceptions and a multi-faceted communications approach.

This campaign helps the public understand the central role psychologists play in mind-body health. This is a particularly important message as we debate the future of health care in this country and the role psychologists should assume in treating health problems such as diabetes, obesity and chronic pain.

The Mind/Body Health Campaign involves a comprehensive communications strategy that includes media relations, online marketing, strategic partnerships and community outreach initiatives. It combines behavioral health research and public opinion data about disease management, stress and lifestyle.

The campaign emphasizes the role of psychologists in disease prevention and health promotion as well as their skills in addressing an individual's behavioral and emotional issues. It also promotes psychologists as doctorally trained professionals, with clinical practice strongly rooted in science.

An integral component of the campaign is a grassroots network of psychologists spreading across North America, delivering campaign messages through various community outreach activities and media interviews. As someone who was active in the campaign over the years, I experienced firsthand the value of face-to-face connections between psychologists and the public. This kind of community engagement increases awareness about psychology and the many ways in which psychologists can help individuals and communities develop skills and implement strategies for healthier lives.

To further expand outreach, APA partnered with the YMCA of the USA. With more than 2,600 YMCAs in America serving more than 20 million people, we have a new venue through which we can directly connect psychologists to the public. (For specifics on the program, see the May, 2009 Monitor.)

This year, the theme of APA's annual State Leadership Conference in March is the “Power of Advocacy.” Advocacy is more than marches on Washington and visits to legislators. It begins with strong and solid messages, not only to policymakers, but also to the public. We know that psychologists and the services we offer are essential to the well-being of individuals, communities and our country. That's why APA has invested in a public education campaign, and we're reaching millions with our messages every year. But we need your help in getting psychology's message out there.

I urge you to get active in the campaign. To learn how to participate, visit www.apa.org/practice/programs/campaign.