Feature

APA's public education campaign, which has come into national prominence over the last 18 months, is the product of five years of meticulous development. The campaign is a carefully orchestrated set of activities--from the grassroots efforts of thousands of psychologists to ads in print, on radio and TV--designed to systematically disseminate a strategic flight of messages about psychology and psychological services to specifically selected target audiences.

Here are some landmarks from the initiative:

1995 From consumer focus groups and a national telephone survey, APA hears that the general public does not understand what psychologists do or how psychologists can help. However, responses indicate that the public wants to hear what psychologists have to say. APA begins researching messages for a public education campaign.

1996 APA launches the "Talk to Someone Who Can Help" campaign to inform consumers of the value of psychological services. The effort later wins the Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America, the most prestigious in the public relations field. As part of the launch APA places a series of print, radio, and television commercials in test-market cities, and establishes a toll-free number for the public to request a brochure or a referral to a local psychologist. The association also creates a consumer Web site with information about psychology and psychological services. To develop a grassroots capacity, APA staff organizers train psychologists around the country in local campaign efforts and media outreach. The association also develops a how-to kit to help APA members to undertake local activities, such as community and media outreach. Regional, state and local psychological associations appoint campaign coordinators. The association begins a newsletter for campaign updates and outreach ideas. Psychologists nationwide undertake ventures with community partners ranging from depression screenings at Borders Book Stores to brown bag lunches for stress discussions with hospital staffs to presentations assigned through speaker bureaus.

1997 Twenty-six state and local psychological associations conduct public education activities including local days for screening for mental health problems. APA establishes matching grant program for state and local associations and APA divisions to place advertising. Five state and regional associations receive matching advertising grants, reaching over 11 million people.

1998 APA approaches Music Television (MTV) about partnering for a national public education effort. MTV executives are particularly interested in the grassroots network of psychologists the campaign has built nationally. Meanwhile, 46 APA state, regional and local associations and divisions have implemented local public education campaign activities. Eight state and regional associations receive matching advertising grants, reaching nearly 29 million people. There are more than one million hits on APA's consumer Web site.

1999 The APA­MTV partnership launches the "Warning Signs" Campaign to help youth identify the warning signs of violence and get help. It includes a 30-minute documentary co-produced by APA and MTV, a guide available to the public through a toll-free number, a Web site and resources to help local psychologists conduct school and community youth forums on violence. Coincidentally, it is aired April 22, two days after the Columbine High School shootings. In the next few days, MTV airs the documentary 13 times instead of the one time that was planned, with 3.9 million youths viewing it. APA distributes 375,000 Warning Signs brochures, compared with the 50,000 preliminary estimate. And psychologists lead 613 forums, instead of the 50 originally planned. Major newspaper and television networks cover the campaign and the forums. Meanwhile, 65 state, regional and local psychological associations and practice divisions have implemented campaign activities. Six state and regional associations receive matching advertising grants reaching nearly 25 million people, for a cumulative total of more than 60 million gross advertising impressions made. At the White Conference on Mental Health in June, Tipper Gore announces preliminary plans for a national anti-stigma campaign. In the fall, APA, MTV and administration officials discuss potential efforts for the youth portion of the anti-stigma campaign.

2000 In March APA launches a new component of the Warning Signs Campaign, this one to help parents communicate with their children. The National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, a public-private partnership developed by the White House, launches the youth anti-stigma initiative, with the APA developing the content for a youth brochure and MTV creating public service announcements for its audience with information on obtaining the brochure

--K. FOXHALL