POLL: Majority support “Radical” or “Significant” changes to how mental health issues are handled in Illinois; 9 out of 10 say Stigma Exists
April 23, 2015

Kennedy Forum Illinois calls for equity, access, accelerated progress.


April 23, 2015


Kelly O’Brien, (312) 532-4881, Kelly@TheKennedyForumIlllinois.org

Julia Hamm, (312) 374-8544,  Julie@HensonConsulting.com


(CHICAGO, IL) – According to new public opinion research released today by the Kennedy Forum Illinois, a clear majority (62{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) of Illinoisians support making “radical” or “significant” changes to the way we are handling mental health conditions in the state. 88 percent of those surveyed are in favor of at least some change to the current system in Illinois. At the same time, nine out of 10 adults (90{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) believe there is a negative stigma associated with mental health conditions, and that mental health conditions are a serious public health problem in the state today (91{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}).

“These findings echo what we know nationwide,” said Patrick Corrigan, Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Institute of Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “Stigma continues to be a major hurdle for people with mental illness, undermining life goals as much as illness itself. I am encouraged that my fellow Illinoisians recognize the need for reforming our mental health system in order to help our brothers and sisters challenged with mental health concerns join us as full and prosperous citizens.”

The public opinion research, commissioned by The Kennedy Forum Illinois and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, also reveals that (62{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) believe physical health is treated with “more importance” than mental health in the current healthcare system in Illinois, and confusion exists over whether or not current law provides parity of coverage for mental health benefits.

“Clearly, there is still much work to be done when it comes to realizing the promise of parity in our health care system,” said former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “In Illinois and around the country, it is going to require getting everyone on board to implement and enforce the law. That means everything from clear guidance and leadership from the federal government and our states, to a strong commitment to transparency and consumers’ rights.”

The survey results also show support for change regardless of party affiliation, with Republicans (82{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}), Independents (84{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}), and Democrats (92{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) in agreement about the need for at least some change in the way we are handling mental health conditions in Illinois today. Majorities of Independents (61{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) and Democrats (70{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) and roughly half of Republicans (49{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c}) support making “radical” or “significant” changes.

“The results here are clear,” said Peter O’Brien, Chair of the Illinois Forum. “Illinoisans want action and change. Our families are affected. Discrimination and stigma remain the status quo, and we need better access to care and services. Addressing mental health needs to be a priority in our state, and it is going to take all of us working together to move the needle on these numbers. The Kennedy Forum Illinois will push for this change.”

The poll also points to:

  • A clear majority of those surveyed believe that access to mental health care and ensuring people with mental health conditions have access to community support services and resources are top goals for mental health in Illinois.
  • Roughly a third of adults with mental health conditions feel they have been treated unfairly because of their condition, either at work, when looking for housing or in the healthcare system.
  • Mental health issues affect three out of ten Illinois families directly.

The statewide poll comes on the heels of a recent national poll showing similar results.

The Kennedy Forum Illinois is a state-based project of The Kennedy Forum, focusing on ending stigma and accelerating progress in mental health. In Illinois, the Forum will focus on public-private partnerships, engaging business and elevating the public discourse. On May 12, in conjunction with the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table initiative, The Kennedy Forum Illinois will host 100 conversations about mental health.



About the Kennedy Forum

The Kennedy Forum seeks to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights. For more information visit: www.thekennedyforum.org

The Kennedy Forum Illinois

In Illinois, The Kennedy Forum is led by a diverse Organizing Committee of civic leaders, who have come together to accelerate progress on mental health and addiction in the state. More information about The Kennedy Forum Illinois can be found here.  A suite of share graphics illustrating the poll results can be found here.


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