News Release 

Student led efforts can help make college campuses 'safe and stigma free' zones

Increasing evidence supports an association between participation in peer-to-peer led events and decreases in prejudice and discrimination around mental health


Washington, DC, April 14, 2020 - The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports on a study following a four year effort to change the stigma of mental illness at Indiana University, which drew the attention of students and faculty; increased awareness of discrimination and prejudice; and decreased prejudice and increased inclusion.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of the "U Bring Change to Mind" (UBC2M) campaign -- a student led program designed to reduce the stigma of mental health problems. While initial stigma levels among college students were much lower than levels reported in the general population, the study documented a significant reduction in the stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs, and a greater willingness to interact with others on campus who face mental health challenges. Results of the UBC2M campaign showed an 11 to 14 percent reduction in stigma documented by the study. This rivals well-funded, national programs, while requiring minimal support for sustainability.

"The development of UBC2M was different from the start," said Dr. Bernice Pescosolido, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of Bring Change to Mind, the advocacy group founded by actor Glen Close to end stigma by starting the conversation. "The students read the science of change, developed principles for their club, and built a broad coalition of support organizations across the campus including the campus cinema, classes and professors.

"The New Student Orientation program, and even the Office of Enrollment Management got involved," Dr. Pescosolido added. In collaboration with Ms. Close, Indiana University was chosen as the national pilot site and engaged professors in evaluating the effort from its beginning.

Wiith new studies of college campuses showing an unexpectedly high level of mental health challenges among US college students, more parents and college administrators have raised concerns about how to respond. Many higher education institutions have reconsidered their campus mental health services but have found that the degree of service need is beyond what current resources are already able to address.

Following changes in attitudes, behaviors and engagement among the 2019 entering class through their junior year, Dr. Pescosolido and her team worked with UBC2M students to administer a web-based survey. The survey asked students about their general ideas about mental illness and their opinions about interacting with students, faculty and staff who face mental health challenges.

Over 1,000 students completed both waves of surveys with over 80 percent reporting that they were aware of the anti-stigma effort. As students' level of participation increased, they reported greater decreases in stigma. Those who had only heard about UBC2M reported no change in prejudice, however they did report a more favorable perception of campus culture overall.

"We are very excited about the results, especially after seeing the comparatively low levels of stigma among entering students. This is a sustainable, scalable approach that builds stability into student clubs that often face the wonderful but inevitable changes in student involvement with minimal, but critical, 'skin in the game' from the campus," concluded Dr. Pescosolido.


Notes for editors

The article is "Empowering the Next Generation to End Stigma by Starting the Conversation: Bring Change to Mind and the College Toolbox Project," by Bernice A. Pescosolido, PhD, Brea L. Perry, PhD, Anne C. Krendl, PhD ( It currently appears on the JAACAP Articles In Press page and will appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 59, issue 4 (April 2020), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Mary Billingsley at"> or +1 202 587 9672. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Bernice A. Pescosolido, at">, or Alex Capshew at">, or +1 812 855 6256.

Dr. Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Indiana University and Director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research. She has led the US National Stigma Studies (1996, 2002, 2006, 2018) and the Stigma in Global Context - Mental Health Study in 16 countries. She serves as Chair, Scientific Advisory Board of Bring Change to Mind, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we're committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Media contact

Mary Billingsley
JAACAP Editorial Office
+1 202 587 9672

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