University of Iowa

Jefferson County Public Health Campaigns for Mental Health

Graduate students in the course Health Communication Campaigns in the College of Public Health created campaigns around the topic of mental health for four distinct population segments in Fairfield and Jefferson County. 

One in four Americans has a mental health condition, yet over 50% of those individuals do not receive treatment for their respective mental health problem. Mental health issues remain highly stigmatized, which can prevent individuals from seeking treatment for their mental health condition to avoid the stigma associated with a “mental illness”. Furthermore, budget cuts in recent years have limited access to treatment to proper mental health services. Overall, mental health conditions continue to be an increasing problem in the United States, and individuals have less access to treatment options.

Community leaders in Jefferson County and its largest community, Fairfield, recognize the need for action in their community to address high rates of mental illness and suicide.  Working with key stakeholders from across the community, student groups conducted primary research to inform communications campaigns targeted toward four distinct groups.  All groups considered the dynamic of Transcendental Meditation, taught in Fairfield at the world-renowned Maharishi University of Management, and western medicine practices. 

  1. Parents of school-aged children - The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of parents having conversations with their teenage children about mental health and possible treatment options.  Key recommendations include the creation of  videos featuring influential and respected community figures discussing mental health, and sharing flyers and posters designed by the group in order to elicit certain desirable behaviors and actions from parents.
  2. Local Employers - The goal of this campaign is to enable small to medium-sized Fairfield employers to provide a mentally healthy workplace environment for their employees.  The group developed a "toolkit" based on strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that helps employers understand baseline data and methods for improving the "scores" through workplace improvements. 
  3. Young Professionals - The goal of this campaign is to decrease the level of perceived stigma around the issue of mental health by young professions.  Messaging and materials center on the message that "You're Worth It", designed to help individuals overcome internal stigmas and obstacles that prevent them from seeking resources and treatment.  Other key recommendations include events and informal meet-ups.
  4. Undergraduate students at Maharishi School of Management (MUM) - Through a unique partnership between the University of Iowa and MUM, students developed a campaign with the goal of increasing the number of MUM undergraduate students that request mental health services through the MUM Department of Student Life.  The campaigns aim to show the complementary nature of transcendental meditation and other forms of treatment through positive messaging, and to illustrate a broad culture of support across the MUM campus.  Key recommendations include making services prominent on MUM website; creating a video to be posted across various media; creating spotlight posters featuring faculty and staff in order to break down perceived barriers; and providing resource fliers in all campus bathrooms, where people often go during a moment of crisis.