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Cross-Agency Evaluation of DoD, VA, and HHS Mental Health Public Awareness Campaigns


More than 2.7 million service members have deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and many who return report symptoms of mental health disorders, such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and problematic substance use. One deterrent to seeking appropriate treatment is the negative perceptions surrounding mental health disorders and their treatment. Mental health public awareness campaigns have been used as one strategy to combat stigma and promote treatment-seeking. This report describes an evaluation of the scope, content, and dissemination of four public awareness campaigns that aim to overcome negative perceptions and promote awareness of mental health disorders and their treatment, with a focus on military and veteran populations. The evaluated campaigns are the Real Warriors Campaign, Make the Connection, National Recovery Month, and awareness materials related to the Veterans Crisis Line. The purpose of this report is twofold. First, it provides a detailed description of how the evaluation was designed, drawing on a literature review, consultation with campaign staff, and feedback on evaluation design from experts. Second, it contains findings from the cross-agency evaluation of the campaigns' collective efforts. This cross-agency evaluation was conducted to determine progress toward the Obama administration's Cross-Agency Priority Goal of improving mental health outcomes for service members, veterans, and their families — this being the case, the report focuses on campaigns' collective reach and impact. Results and recommendations address four sets of findings related to efficiency and mental health messaging, content of campaign materials, dissemination and reach, and direct connections to care.

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Acosta, Joie D., Jennifer L. Cerully, Eunice C. Wong, Elizabeth L. Petrun Sayers, Mikhail Zaydman, Lisa S. Meredith, Ilana Blum, Nupur Nanda, Terri Tanielian, Rachel Ross, and Asa Wilks. 2020. "Cross-Agency Evaluation of DoD, VA, and HHS Mental Health Public Awareness Campaigns." RAND (February). https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1612.html

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