Objective: To assess changes in depression awareness and attitudes in Australia and the effect that beyondblue: the national depression initiative has had on these.
Method: Data from national surveys of mental health literacy in 1995 and 2003-2004 were analysed to see if states and territories that funded beyondblue (the high-exposure states) had greater changes than those that did not (the low-exposure states). In both surveys, participants were shown a depression vignette and asked whether they themselves or family or friends had ever had a similar problem, whether they thought the person would be discriminated against, and questions about the likelihood of long-term positive and negative outcomes for the person. Participants were also assessed for symptoms of psychological distress in the past month.
Results: There was an increase in the percentage of people who said that they or their family or friends had a problem like the person in the vignette. This increase was greater in the high-exposure states. However, there was no change in reports of current psychological distress, suggesting that there is greater depression awareness or openness rather than a real increase in symptoms. People in the high-exposure states also showed an increase in the belief that discrimination would occur. There was little change in beliefs about long-term outcomes, apart from people in high-exposure states believing that a depressed person would be more understanding of other people's feelings.
Conclusions: The data are consistent with beyondblue having had an effect on awareness of depression and of discrimination against depressed people.