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SAMHSA News - July/August 2007, Volume 15, Number 4


A Friend Makes a Difference

Anti-Stigma Campaign Encourages Support

New materials are now available as part of SAMHSA’s Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign launched in 2006. (See SAMHSA News online, November/December 2006.)

The campaign’s new brochure, What a Difference a Friend Makes, is designed to provide young adults with the tools to help support a friend who is living with a mental illness in the recovery process.

A Spanish-language version of the brochure, Un amigo marca una gran diferencia, also is available.

In addition, campaign public service announcements (PSAs) are now available in Spanish as well as English.

“Once people understand the facts about mental illnesses, they are better equipped to support their friends and family members who may be affected,” said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. “Young people can make a difference in the lives of their friends simply by being understanding, empathetic, and knowledgeable about what friends are going through as they make their way to recovery.”

Debunking Myths

Focusing on the basics, the SAMHSA brochure defines key terms such as mental health, recovery, and support.

Myths and facts about mental illness are included. For example, one pervasive myth is that people can’t do anything for a person with mental illness. On the contrary, according to the brochure, “helping” begins with how we act and speak with a person with a mental illness. Social acceptance makes a big difference.

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What Would You Do?

The brochure offers a variety of “What Would You Do” scenarios—ways to be helpful to someone with a mental illness. For example, what if your friend started sleeping away much of the day? A solution is to encourage your friend to get out of the house, or maybe even go to a movie with you.

Another example is what to do if you hear others talking about people with mental illnesses in negative terms. One solution is to let those people know that people with mental illnesses deserve respect and dignity.

The brochure also includes a resources list and two postcards to spread the word.

One of the campaign’s intentions is to build awareness that mental illnesses affect a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being in much the same way as diabetes or heart disease affects a person’s overall health.

According to recent SAMHSA statistics, the prevalence of serious mental health conditions among people age 18 to 25 is almost double that of the general population. Conversely, young adults at this age show the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. And only about 25 percent of young adults in this age group believe that a person with mental illness can recover.

Free copies of this publication, What a Difference a Friend Makes (English) and Un amigo marca una gran diferencia (Español) are available from SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or 1-866-889-2647 (TDD). Request inventory number SMA07-4265 (English) or SMA07-4289 (Español).

Online, the English-language brochure is available on the campaign’s Web site at http://whatadifference.org/docs/NASC.pdf.

The Spanish-language brochure is available on the campaign's Web site at http://whatadifference.org/docs/NASC_Spanish_web.pdf.

For general information about mental illnesses, recovery, and related publications, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov.

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