The British Journal of Psychiatry
Changes in public attitudes to depression during the Defeat Depression Campaign.
E S Paykel, D Hart, R G Priest


BACKGROUND Aims of the Defeat Depression Campaign between 1991 and 1996 included the reduction of stigma associated with depression, education of the public about the disorder and its treatment and encouragement of earlier treatment-seeking. Newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television programmes and other media activities were employed.

METHOD Surveys of public attitudes were conducted by MORI in late 1991, early 1995 and mid-1997. Each covered approximately 2000 subjects, sampled to be representative of the population of Great Britain. Structured interviews covered views on depression, treatment and general practitioners (GPs).

RESULTS There were significant positive changes regarding attitudes to depression, reported experience of it, attitudes to antidepressants, and less consistently, to treatment from GPs. Changes were of the order of 5-10%. Throughout, attitudes to depression and to treatment by counselling were very favourable, whereas antidepressants were regarded as addictive and less effective.

CONCLUSIONS Positive attitude change was achieved during the Campaign, although there is still room for improvement in some aspects.