The S.O.S. Campaign: Educating the Public About Schizophrenia

November 1, 1997

Inspired, in part, by the initial success of treating young patients with new atypical antipsychotic medications, the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) has initiated a major consumer campaign to educate the public about schizophrenia. S.O.S. (Signs of Schizophrenia) is designed to help parents and children recognize symptoms and seek treatment, emphasizing the importance of early detection and care.

Inspired, in part, by the initial success of treating young patients with new atypical antipsychotic medications, the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) has initiated a major consumer campaign to educate the public about schizophrenia. S.O.S. (Signs of Schizophrenia) is designed to help parents and children recognize symptoms and seek treatment, emphasizing the importance of early detection and care.

The S.O.S. campaign, which includes written materials and a videocassette presentation, is being underwritten by an educational grant from Janssen Pharma-ceutica, which manufactures risperidone (Risperdal). "Schizophrenia is the most debilitating mental illness," says Patrick Cody, NMHA director of media relations, who helped design the campaign. "It is also probably the most stigmatized."

The ongoing effort has resulted in feature articles in such publications as The Washington Post and Prevention magazine and television and video spots in such diverse markets as Cleveland, San Francisco, Nashville and San Diego. NMHA says it has tripled its usual number of public information calls since the campaign was initiated in May 1997. Cody says S.O.S. will be followed with specific messages directed at college and high school students, administrators and faculty.

Parents and other family members are often overwhelmed with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and the well-meaning efforts of social service organizations to help. Family members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) help parents and siblings of individuals with schizophrenia by offering assistance with consumer issues related to the disease. Schizophrenics Anonymous is another lay organization founded to help provide mutual support and role modeling; the group is organized by local chapters.

For an overview of consumer employment, see Consumers as Providers in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Carol T. Mowbray, ed., International Association of Pyschosocial Rehabilitation Services, Columbia, Md.