In the mid-1990s, APA research revealed some startling facts: Most Americans didn’t know, exactly, what psychologists do. People feared the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, and few understood the mind-body connection.

That picture has since changed remarkably, thanks to the APA Practice Directorate’s social marketing programs. Speakers at the APA Annual Convention session “Expanding Psychologists’ Roles, Influence and Value through Social Marketing” gave an overview of those programs, which include:

  • The Mind/Body Health Public Education Campaign. Launched five years ago, this effort promotes the link between psychological and physical health through traditional media, such as newspaper articles and TV reports, and social media, including Facebook and Twitter. The mind/body campaign also relies on a grassroots network of psychologists who conduct workshops nationwide using free, APA-provided toolkits on behavioral health topics, such as heart disease and stress.

    The combination of media and grassroots outreach reaps huge dividends for psychologists, said APA Board of Directors member Jennifer Kelly, PhD. In fact, the community mental health fair she organized in Georgia was so successful that her team replicated it for Georgia’s state legislature, which proclaimed Feb. 3 as Psychology Day.

    “Psychologists love doing this, and the public loves it when we do it,” added David J. Palmiter Jr., PhD, of Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., who also conducts workshops in his state. “We never get below 95 percent approval” from the audience after a presentation, he said.

    For more information on how you can get involved in the campaign, go to APA's Public Education Campaign.

  • The Stress in America Survey. An outgrowth of the mind/body campaign, this annual survey is now in its third year, reporting on the nation’s stress levels.

    “This poll is helping to educate Americans about the effects of stress on their overall health and the role of psychology in disease prevention and management,” said public education campaign coordinator Nancy S. Molitor, PhD, of Wilmette, Ill.

    APA promotes the survey results to media nationwide. Last year, that resulted in 2,000 print articles and 1,000 broadcast reports on mind/body health. And, between 2008 and 2009, the survey garnered a total of $6.1 million worth of broadcast publicity, Molitor said.

    For more on the 2009 survey, go to APA press release on annual stress in America survey.

  • APA’s partnership with the YMCA. The relationship sprang from a lunch that psychologist Jana Martin, PhD, had three years ago with a friend working at the YMCA. Martin asked whether the YMCA would be interested in forming an alliance with APA since both were interested in health. They were. “It shows the power of connections,” said Martin.

    The potential to promote psychology in the country’s YMCAs is tremendous, with 2,687 Ys nationwide, visited by 21 million people, including 9.4 million children.

    The APA/YMCA partnership started with psychologists offering workshops on obesity in youth in several Ys. Now, psychologists in 21 states have relationships with their local Ys and are providing workshops on a variety of behavioral health topics. “The YMCA provides the venue, APA provides the workshop materials, and the Y will do the advertising for the event,” said Martin.

    To get involved in the effort, go to APA and YMCA of the USA Partnership.

  • The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. Psychologists’ research has consistently shown that when employers take care of their workers, they improve their workers’ lives as well as company bottom lines. That insight is central to the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, which recognizes employers who excel in five key areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition.

    But that award program was just a start, said David Ballard, PsyD, MBA, of APA’s Practice Directorate. “It was a tool to show that it is possible to create [a healthier workplace.] Now we have built information and resources that help organizations create their own healthy workplaces.” Those materials include the Good Company podcast, Twitter feed, newsletter and blog, found online.

    “We are hitting people where they are,” said Ballard. “At work.”