Using Digital Media to Reach More People

mike and cliff on laptop

Fellow Rotarian Cliff Pfleger (right), owner of Long Island Gun Source, speaks with me about gun safety and suicide. He and his sales team have participated in “safeTALK” seminars that helps recognize indicators of suicide risk.

We tried a new approach, and it worked!

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week was Sunday, October 6 through Saturday, October 12. In prior years, we would work with our partner Mental Health Association of Nassau County to schedule an ambitious program of mental health-related events over the course of the Week.

This time, we tried something different with an aim to reach more people with mental health stories and information at a time when mental health misinformation has never been greater.

We joined with our Nassau colleagues to post a succession of community-produced videos addressing mental health topics – along with promoting a more-modest number of events.

The results exceeded our expectations. Thousands of Long Islanders enriched their understanding of mental health issues via our website, blast emails, and social media posts.

We attracted 1,133 page views on the www.mhaweek.org website during the week — 488 were on the website’s home page, which featured the videos. However, a near equal amount, 432, were on our Schedule of Events page, indicating that people still had a strong interest in attending events.

Each day, we disseminated a new blast email focused on a different theme, such as:

  • The Changing Mental Health Workforce: The Emerging Role of Peers
  • Addressing the Social Determinants of Mental Health
  • Healing and Recovery
  • Mental Health Education and Anti-Stigma
  • Crisis Prevention
  • Veterans Mental Health

Recipients opened these emails an astounding 9,145 times. Each linked to community-produced videos that triggered 4,532 clicks-throughs. In addition, YouTube users clicked on our videos 1,012 times, and our LinkedIn posts garnered 314 impressions.

And there’s more data supporting our strategy: We also posted the video series on Facebook, where they were viewed 5,943 times. Of this figure, 1,034 of our visitors were “engaged.” That means that one out of six people either liked, commented, shared the post, or clicked a link.

The video that attracted greatest interest featured an interview with my fellow Rotarian Cliff Pfleger, owner of the Long Island Gun Source in Medford. Viewed by one-quarter of our Facebook viewers, I talked with Cliff about the connection between gun safety and suicide prevention, including the role that gun sales personnel can serve. Cliff is very on-board when it comes to suicide prevention. He and his sales team have participated in the “safeTALK” seminar series that helps attendees recognize indicators of suicide risk.

Another video that attracted a significant number of viewers was on Children and Anxiety produced by Alexis Rodgers, Coordinator for Mental Health Education here at MHAW. Alexis discussed some of the ways anxiety manifests itself in children and how Mental Health First Aid can help adults assist young people with mental health challenges.

When it comes to public health education, the value of personal presence at actual, live events still holds greatest value – witness the impact of the Mental Health Education in Schools Act.

But in our contemporary era, as the nature of public education evolves, the number of “hits” and “views” suggest it was a smart move to tilt much of our energies more toward online platforms. It helps us reach a larger audience than an event-only approach.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older – about 1 in 4 adults – suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder within a given year. This figure underscores the vital importance of the full scope of our public education work.

On behalf of everyone associated with our organization as well as our Nassau counterparts, let me extend a message of gratitude to all who contributed to the success of Mental Health Awareness Week this year.

Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities. A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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Posted in Mental Health Awareness Week, Mental Health First Aid, Suicide

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