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'Real Men' Wear Lapel Rosettes

By Jennifer Loukissas

On Oct. 12, the National Institute of Mental Health welcomed an eclectic group of public health heroes to a celebration of the success of the Real Men Real Depression (RMRD) campaign. NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel and staff joined several of the men who first volunteered for the campaign as well as Surgeon General Richard Carmona, NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington and other early supporters of the effort. NIMH awarded each of the participants a lapel rosette to recognize their service to the campaign.

NIMH launched Real Men Real Depression in April 2003 in response to a growing awareness that men's depression was overlooked. The project took 18 months to create. Leslie Weiner, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, developed a series of television, print and radio public service announcements (PSAs) featuring real people, not actors, telling stories of how depression affected them: a fire fighter, a national diving champion, a writer, a retired Air Force sergeant, a lawyer, a publisher and a college student.

The campaign includes a series of 30-second video and radio PSAs, print materials, and more recently, bus-side ads. Since its launch, the campaign has produced videos targeting Native Americans and African-Americans as well as Spanish PSAs and publications.

NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel (third from l) and Surgeon General Richard Carmona meet with Real Men Real Depression volunteers (from l) Jimmy Brown, Rodolfo Palma-Lulión, Steve Lappen and Patrick McCathern.

NIMH has distributed these PSAs to news outlets across the nation. To date, the campaign's reach has been extensive, touching an audience of more than 318 million, with free advertising valued at $3 million. On television, the spots have aired on 117 stations, reaching an audience of more than 24 million; in print, PSAs have appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, Los Angeles Times and Prevention, despite the fact that national newspapers rarely run public service announcements. The radio PSAs have aired on 874 stations, with more than 68,000 broadcasts, reaching an estimated audience of 120 million.

Communities across the country are also embracing the campaign. The Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley has adopted the campaign as a community effort with a number of sponsors. NIMH is partnering with groups such as the Mesa County health department in Grand Junction, Colo., and Blue Shield of California, which are adapting the campaign to meet local needs.

The campaign, now entering its second phase, has won numerous awards including NIH Plain Language awards for the campaign's television PSAs and web site; two first place Blue Pencil awards for best promotional campaign and best print PSA; two Gold Screen awards from the National Association of Government Communicators 2003; and other awards that honor the nation's best consumer health information programs and materials.

Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition — a brain disease — that can strike anyone, including men. In America alone, over 6 million men have depression each year. Research suggests that men are less likely to seek treatment for this illness; data also show that men die by suicide at four times the rate of women.

RMRD is the first national public education campaign aimed at raising awareness about this public health issue. Through RMRD, NIMH is raising awareness of depression in men and encouraging them to seek treatment.

RMRD operates a toll-free help line staffed with information specialists (1-866-227-6464). If callers are seeking referrals to health care professionals, they are sent to SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services. Half of those who call in are men.

The RMRD web site (http://menanddepression.nimh.nih.gov/) provides information on symptoms of depression, its effects, and treatments and allows users to download resources from the privacy of their own computers.


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