San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency engaged Metropolitan Group to develop an intervention that would help reduce the stigma of mental illnesses among Latinos, to educate the Latino community on mental health issues and mental illnesses, and to provide information on how Latinos can access the county’s mental health services.
The primary vehicle selected to engage the campaign’s audiences and stakeholders was a fotonovela, a common and proven tool for engaging and educating Latinos on a wide range of social, environmental, and public health issues. Working with a steering committee comprised of Latino mental health consumers and mental health providers, MG conducted formative focus groups among consumers in both Spanish and English, worked with the steering committee to storyboard the content for the fotonovela, wrote and designed the fotonovela using original photography, and tested the tool with Latino mental health consumers and the general public. The fotonovela was researched and developed in Spanish, then adapted into English as the primary audience for this tool are community members for whom Spanish is their first language.
Dissemination of the fotonovela included 110,000 printed copies, distributed through all branches of the county library (now a part of the permanent collection), supermarkets in Latino neighborhoods, county health offices, mental health providers, and the county’s Latino health promoters. To increase the reach of the fotonovela at a lower cost per impression, it was also adapted into a two-part serialized story and published in the county’s leading Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers, El Latino and La Prensa. In addition to publishing the fotonovela, each newspaper included op-eds, features, and news articles on the subject of Latino mental health.
A follow-up online survey demonstrated the effectiveness of the fotonovela in influencing changes in attitudes, understanding, and/or behavioral intentions. Recall of the fotonovela was 19.3%, suggesting it reached almost one in five Latino residents of the county. More than 90% of Latinos in the survey indicated that the fotonovela had helped them recognize symptoms of mental health problems, helped them believe that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of, increased their understanding that mental health problems can be effectively treated, and informed them that treatment is available.
MG and San Diego County received the top national Public Relations Society of America award — a Silver Anvil for this campaign.