What are we trying to achieve?
A societal attitude and behavioural change towards mental health through -
We want to create a society where people are;
Preventing their own mental health decline by looking after their mind daily
Educated with the correct information around mental health and wellness so they feel confident to start a conversation with someone else about it
Aware of how different mental health problems can manifest in separate individuals so that they can identify a problem in someone else
Knowledgeable on how to help someone in distress in the correct way
If we want people who are suffering to speak out… then we need to create a society where they feel they can do that – we need to break the stigma.
“To break the stigma, we must not only break our silence but increase our understanding, perception and beliefs around mental health and wellness!”
(Reaching Wellness, 2019)
What is stigma and why is it detrimental to an individual’s mental health?
“Mental illness stigma is defined as the “devaluing, disgracing, and disfavouring by the general public of individuals with mental illnesses”.
(Abdullah and Brown, 2011)
“Stigma occurs when society labels someone as tainted or less desirable. Stigma involves three elements; a lack of knowledge (ignorance), negative attitudes (prejudice) and people behaving in ways that disadvantage the stigmatised person (discrimination)”
(Haddad and Haddad, 2019)
In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified stigma and discrimination towards mentally ill individuals as “the single most important barrier to overcome in the community”.
(World Health Organization, 2001).
Where has stigmatic culture developed from?
“Stigma exists mainly because most people don't understand mental illness and because some people have negative attitudes or beliefs towards it. These attitudes and beliefs can be formed from personal experience, social factors, conditioned learning or from observing other people (family, friends, colleagues).”
(Verywell Mind, 2019)
“There are still attitudes within most societies that view symptoms of psychopathology as threatening and uncomfortable and these attitudes frequently foster stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems. Such reactions are common when people are brave enough to admit they have a mental health problem and they can often lead on to various forms of exclusion or discrimination – either within social circles or within the workplace."
(Psychology Today, 2019)
"Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types:
Social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given.
In contrast, perceived stigma or self-stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination and perceived stigma can significantly affect feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcomes.
In relation to social stigma, studies have suggested that stigmatising attitudes towards people with mental health problems are widespread and commonly held."
(Psychology Today, 2019)
How do we break stigmatic culture?
If we consider all the information above, we can with certainty highlight three consistent catalysts for the stigma around mental health;
Lack of Education around mental health and wellness in general
Lack of Awareness of how the same mental health problem can manifest in different people
Lack of Knowledge of how to help someone suffering from a mental health condition in the correct way.
All three of the above can create fear, which will understandably develop negative attitudes and beliefs and therefore impact an individual’s behaviour towards someone suffering from mental health problems.
This is the purpose of our campaign!
How will PEAK challenge fear and achieve attitude, belief and behavioural change in relation to stigmatic culture?
We believe that stigmatic attitudes, beliefs and behaviours can be modified through habit formation and operant conditioning.
“Habit formation is the process by which new behaviours become automatic by transferring from your conscious mind to your subconscious using the habit formation loop. The behavioural patterns we repeat most often are etched into our neural pathways. Through repetition and due to neuroplasticity, it's possible to form—and maintain—new habits. And even long-time habits that are detrimental to health and well-being can be modified with enough determination.”
(Psychology Today, 2019)
“Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behaviour. Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behaviour and either a negative or positive consequence”
In this instance, the “new behaviour” that we want to become automatic through repetition is “to openly discuss mental health with the correct education, awareness and knowledge”, resulting in a change of attitude and behaviour towards people with mental health problems, with the prediction of breaking stigmatic culture. We will use operant conditioning with a positive reward to further reinforce this behaviour change.
How can we convert a repeated conscious behaviour into an automatic subconscious one?
The conscious mind is the part of your brain that is responsible for logic, reasoning, critical thinking and will power.
Your subconscious mind is almost exclusively in control of every attitude, belief and value you hold and behaviour you express.
For example, if most people read a mental health fact just once, this would only stay in their conscious brain as a thought, it probably wouldn’t have any effect on your attitudes, beliefs or behaviour towards mental health.
If that knowledge is repeated in your mind and continuously shared with other people, it would then transfer to your subconscious brain as ‘stored knowledge’ in your long-term memory.
Alone, stored knowledge is not enough to change a behaviour, there are many factors that can go into whether behaviour change takes place, but an important one of these is habit.
If knowledge is used habitually, it becomes automatic. If we engage in a behaviour habitually, our thoughts and feelings toward that behaviour are also likely to change. If we are then rewarded for a certain behaviour, we will also continue to participate in that behaviour.
So, if we want to break mental health stigma, if we want to challenge and modify negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in our subconscious around mental health, if we want to eliminate the fear of people who suffer from these types of conditions and find it comfortable to openly talk about the subject – then we have to consistently repeat this behaviour, while being rewarded in the process!
Our social experiment
(Lally et al., 2009) found that on average new habits could be formed between 18 and 256 days, so based on all this study, we have designed a 137-day “habit change” challenge using the midpoint number of Lally’s research.
Once you register your pledge to take part you will be asked to fill out four questionnaires.
Rosenberg self -esteem scale (RSE)
Mental Health Knowledge Schedule (MAKS)
Community Attitudes toward the Mentally Ill (CAMI)
One based on your personal demographics.
This information will be recorded, stored safely and securely and taken again at the end of the 137 days.
For the experiment to work effectively there will be two elements for individuals to complete daily.
The first is required for habit formation - Over the duration of the 137-day campaign we will be posting daily knowledge to learn and behaviours to execute, they will be as follows;
1. A positive statement to repeat to yourself 4 times daily (prevention)
2. A fact about general mental health conditions; to learn and then share 4 times daily with other people (Education)
3. A fact about how the same mental health disorder can present differently in separate individuals; to learn and then share 4 times daily with other people (Awareness)
4. Professional advice for helping someone struggling with a certain problem; to learn and then share 4 times daily with other people (Knowledge)
The second is required for operant conditioning using positive reward – Each of the 4 times you do the 4 PEAK behaviours, we would like you to reward yourself with a positive statement of praise. The theory behind this is that eventually, you will perform the desired behaviour automatically (habitual behaviour change) without needing to praise yourself (operant conditioning).
If participants can maintain both of these elements of PEAK for 137 days, our prediction is that through neuroplasticity, for most people, these 4 new habits or behaviours should become automatic; they will transfer from conscious brain to subconscious – therefore modifying attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in relation to openly discussing mental health with the correct education, awareness and knowledge and also improving their own personal self-esteem, resulting in a change of attitude and behaviour towards themselves and people with mental health problems.
If you would like to pledge your participation in this social experiment then please use the contact form below to register interest. You will be contacted by our research team with more details. To participate in this study you are required to be 16 and over or able to provide written consent from your legal parent/guardian. We have no location requirements other than you must live permanently in the United Kingdom.
Please see the document link below for all references used in the research gathering for PEAK. A full psychological report will be made public once the social experiment is complete.