The Mind-the-Mind Campaign: Battling the Stigma of Mental Disorders

People suffering from mental disorders face great difficulties in their daily lives and deserve all possible support from their social environment. However, their social milieus are often host to stigmatizing behaviors that actually serve to increase the severity of their mental disorders: People diagnosed with a mental disorder are often believed to be dangerous and excluded from social activities. Individuals who receive treatment are seen as being “taken care of” and social support is extenuated. Concerned friends, with all their best intentions, might show apprehensiveness when it comes to approaching someone with a diagnosis, and end up doing nothing (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). These examples are not of exceptional, sporadic situations—according to the World Health Organisation, nine out of ten people with a diagnosis report suffering from stigmatisation (WHO, 2016).

As stigmatisation plays such an important role in the course of a mental disorder, a group of students from the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations (EFPSA) and its Social Impact Initiative decided to take action by launching the Mind the Mind campaign‘”We recognized the stigma of mental disorders as a very important ongoing problem in society and that we, as psychology students, could contribute to an improvement,” says Irena Stojadinović, the coordinator of the group. But how does a group of students with no funding accomplish this? “This campaign was made possible thanks to many hardworking people who shared the same vision and enthusiasm of making a change in society. We established a structure in which every member of the team is a mentor of a group of local coordinators from three to five regions or countries who are responsible for the organisation of the campaign on the local level, recruitment of the volunteers who are the ones delivering the workshops to second-grade students, and the trainers who are preparing the volunteers for the delivery.”


The Mind the Mind team went bowling during the EFPSA Congress 2015 in Srní, Czech Republic

With local coordinators in place in 12 European countries, the group developed a workshop in order to dispel common myths and show ways to support people who suffer from mental disorders. The initiative targeted secondary school children as research has shown that the discriminating attitudes and behavior begin as early as kindergarten (Wahl, 2010). In the first part of the workshop, the most common mental disorders are discussed and frequent misconceptions are clarified: People diagnosed with schizophrenia are often thought of more dangerous (they are not) and disorders are perceived as very rare. (Indeed, every fourth person suffers at least once from a disorder in their lifetime, Steel et al., 2014.) Then, a highly interactive section follows with various role-plays tailored to the social environment of second graders (a classmate returns from a psychiatric clinic), ending with a reflective discussion.

Stigmatisation of mental disorder is not an easy topic. Is it possible to raise interest about this issue among second graders? “I was a bit worried about whether they would enjoy the workshop. However, after I delivered the first workshop with my friends, all worries disappeared! I realized that the students are eager to learn and to absorb the information and knowledge we share about mental disorders and stigma, and I was truly touched by their motivation and enthusiasm,” says Isidora Bašić, a Mind the Mind volunteer in Serbia.

In their first wave of the Mind the Mind campaign, through June 2015, their international mentors, local coordinators, trainers, and volunteers reached about 6,000 second-graders in over 250 workshops in 12 European countries. Irena and her team are very happy with the feedback from the first wave: “Both local coordinators and volunteers were very satisfied with the campaign, its structure, and materials, and they were very motivated by the positive reactions of the students and their interest in the topic. In addition, they gave us useful suggestions for the further improvement of the campaign and the materials, which were taken into account during the revision process.” What are the future plans for the Mind the Mind campaign? “Currently, the second wave of the campaign is under way—this time already in 23 countries! Also, we added measures to estimate the real impact our campaign has on the students. We hope that we will be able to maintain stable growth of the campaign in the next few years. In addition to that, we are also planning completely new initiatives focused on other applied fields of psychology!”

Would you like to organize or support Mind the Mind workshops in your area? Contact the Social Impact team via their websiteFacebook page, or e-mail (

The Mind the Mind campaign is supported by the Board on Prevention and Intervention of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Association (EFPA).


Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry, 1(1), 16–20.

Steel, Z., Marnane, C., Iranpour, C., Chey, T., Jackson, J. W., Patel, V., & Silove, D. (2014). The global prevalence of common mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis 1980-2013. International Journal of Epidemiology, 43(2), 476–93. doi:10.1093/ije/dyu038

Wahl, O. E. (2002). Children’s Views of Mental Illness: A Review of the Literature. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Skills, 6(2), 134–158. doi:10.1080/10973430208408430

World Health Organization. (2016, January 21). Data and statistics. Retrieved January 21, 2016, from

This post was edited by Altan Orhon.

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas is a Senior Editor at the Journal of European Psychology Students. He is currently a PhD student in psychological methods at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For further info see

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