Georgie Harman, CEO of beyondblue, writes:

beyondblue recently released findings of an independent evaluation of the Stop. Think. Respect. ‘Invisible Discriminator’ campaign, which showed increased awareness of racial discrimination in people who had seen the ads.

The campaign was launched in July last year to highlight the link between psychological distress and subtle racism.

It hit the mark in terms of reach with more than 3.75 million views online, breaking beyondblue records. The strong community support was reflected in social media activity, with more than 6,000 uses of the #StopThinkRespect hashtag, 3,500 re-tweets, 50,000+ likes and 10,000+ shares on facebook.

In terms of social impact, the evaluation by research agency TNS shows that people who saw the campaign are now better equipped to identify overt and subtle forms of racial discrimination when they see it and understand its impact on mental health. It is encouraging that 90 per cent of those who saw the campaign recognise that discrimination has an impact on mental health (distress, anxiety and depression).

The campaign prompted the target audience of non-Indigenous people aged 25-44 to reassess their behaviour. People are now far more likely to want to set a good example for others and intervene if they witness an act of racial discrimination.

The concept of equality resonated strongly with the audience, and people were highly motivated to change their actions. Of those who saw the campaign; 68 per cent said they would say something if they witnessed as act of discrimination; 22 per cent thought about what they could do to reduce discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; 27 per cent talked to friends about the ad; and 14 per cent looked for information about discrimination.

Overall, 25-50 per cent of those who saw the campaign either took positive action or considered taking action.

The research also included a qualitative component which shows that the campaign has brought about some positive effects for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were interviewed spoke of the dignified, empowering portrayal by the actors and the credible real-life scenarios depicted in the campaign, which avoided clichés and prevailing stereotypes within mainstream media.

Mixed results
Despite a large proportion of the audience recognising the impact of discrimination on mental health, approximately 20 per cent failed to recognise the behaviours in the ad as being discriminatory.

This segment of the target audience had normalised discriminatory behaviours, with results showing an increase in the number of people who don’t think there is anything wrong with the scenarios depicted in the campaign. There may be a number of reasons for this response.

For example, the research shows that perceived levels of discrimination against many groups of people (such as people who do not speak English and people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual) reduced at the time the campaign aired. This points to the influence of other factors such as the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment due to global publicity around violent acts committed by pro-Islamist group ISIS and reactions to the shooting of Michael Brown in the United States.

Another possible reason why some discriminatory attitudes worsened following exposure to the ads is that it is a defensive response in line with a traditional behaviour modification paradigm.

At the tracking stage of this campaign, there was an initial drop in negative attitudes, which is often described as the “honeymoon phase”. Under that model, it is usual for those attitudes to rebound (known as an “extinction burst”) prior to a gradual tapering off of the negative attitudes. This is what we believe is the trajectory of our campaign, and we will continue to promote our messaging to achieve change in the longer term as outlined in the model.

Like all anti-racism efforts, our campaign confronted and challenged some people, and more work needs to be done to change entrenched racist attitudes and behaviour.

We can all play a part in changing this. People can use our campaign materials as an education and training resource in their workplaces, schools and community organisations. beyondblue has already received enquiries from organisations as far as the Channel Islands in Europe who are using our resources to educate workers.

The beyondblue website also directs people to actions they can take, such as reporting discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission by making a complaint, links to resources on how to intervene in situations of discrimination and educational resources to learn more about the impact of racial discrimination.

There are links to a number of other settings-based campaigns such as the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Racism. It stops with me campaign which also provides material for workplaces, schools and the wider community.

These findings show that primary prevention campaigns targeting racism can deliver strong results, but like other public health campaigns, long-term effort is required to translate increasing awareness into ongoing behavioural change. beyondblue is committed to working with others to achieve this goal.

Effort is required across a range of settings including through the health system, schools and workplaces. For our part, we will be extending our messaging through other channels such as the new MindMatters program available to all Australian secondary schools.

We will also be continuing our participation in the Close the Gap campaign steering committee, and advocating for mental health and suicide prevention measures that work to close the mental health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people.



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