Public stigma of mental illness is still a major problem where numerous population studies during the last decade have mainly shown no improvements. A Swedish national antistigma campaign has been running 2010-2014. The aim of this study was to investigate changes in public stigma during this period as compared to baseline in 2009.
Yearly population surveys were made between 2009 and 2014 including assessments of mental health literacy, attitudes, and intended future behaviour. Two surveys were made, one including a nationally representative sample and one including a representative sample from three original campaign regions. Multiple regression analyses, also including age, gender, education, and familiarity with mental illness were made to investigate yearly changes in public stigma compared to baseline.
Mental health literacy improved significantly in the campaign regions between 2009 and 2014, as did intended future behaviour. Attitudes toward mental illness also improved significantly. Improvements were also shown in the national population surveys, but the time pattern of these compared to that of the original campaign regions indicated that these changes took place mainly after the campaign had been extended to a further five Swedish regions.
The results of our surveys suggest that a campaign primarily based on social contact theory and involving people with lived experience of mental illness may, even in a rather short-term perspective, have a significant positive impact on mental health literacy, attitudes, and intentions of social contact with people with mental illness.