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Austria has embarked upon a nationwide campaign to fight stigma and discrimination related to schizophrenia as part of the global programme initiated by the WPA. Pre-programme activities have included educational programmes in schools, video-clips in movie theatres, and mental illness related “film festivals.” The set-up of a Local Action Group (see list of members below), the regional sub-committees, and the first steps of the programme have been undertaken.
     It was also decided to conduct a nation-wide survey on attitudes and knowledge concerning schizophrenia. Targets were:

  • General population (n. 1047)
  • Relatives (n. 137)
  • Social workers/psychiatric nurses (n. 480)
  • Psychiatrist (n. 68)
  • General practitioners/internists (n. 116)
  • Health care journalists (n. 30)

It was found that many Austrians were familiar with the term schizophrenia (80%). Information about the illness differed considerably among the respondents: whilst about 80% of doctors identified genetics as a main cause, 70% of general population thought that stress was a factor, and 60% of general population thought that head injuries cause schizophrenia. 84% of all Austrians were not eager to hear more about schizophrenia. Social distance from people with schizophrenia was apparent from the survey.
     Following the survey, the committee engaged a public relations agency to help with the initial steps of the programme. It was then decided to start an awareness campaign transported mainly via posters, billboards, and presentations on national and regional radio programmes. This should serve as a basis for a continuing effort to increase awareness and improve attitudes related to schizophrenia in target groups such as 14–18 years old children, health professionals and the police force. Members of the media also constitute a target group. The programme will be officially launched in late 1999 and is planned to continue for two years.

Contact Information
Dr. Werner Schöny
Univ. Doz. Österreichische Gesellschaft für Neurologie und Psychiatrie
LNK Wagner Jauregg Wagner Jaureggweg 15
Linz A-4020 Austria
FAX: 43-732-6921-207
Email: [email protected]

Local Action Group
Andrea Valentitsch Ksàrnten
Fritz Schlicher
Ingrid Rath
Michael Lehofer
Heinz Katschnig
Birgit Kofler
Hans Fabisch
Uli Meise

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