The Royal College of Psychiatrists and its new comms team prioritised authenticity in a two-minute campaign film that features voiceover direct from testimony of psychiatric patients.

Although broad public awareness of mental health has increased in recent years, it retains an unglamorous or ‘soft’ perception in the medical profession, and in the past two years the number of doctors specialising in psychiatry has risen far slower than other specialisms, according to the college.

A focus group also found that medical students were cynical about ads shown to them by the college. The Royal College of Psychiatrists and its new comms team therefore prioritised authenticity in a two-minute campaign film produced with the creative agency Fabrik. All voiceover comes direct from testimony of psychiatric patients, although they are voiced and portrayed by actors, while the medical professionals in the film are all real-life medics.

The campaign got coverage on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning (Monday), on Sky News Sunrise, radio, and in several national newspapers.

Over the coming weeks, media coverage has been secured in a number of other mainstream outlets including TimeOut, with the college’s comms team keen to reach beyond the traditional medical professional press. Social media will also play a role, with Stephen Fry among those spreading the word on Twitter.

It is the first time the body has run a campaign to attempt to entice students into the profession.

Director of strategic comms Kim Catcheside said: “In the past mental health has suffered from a lot of stigma, which means we have not often spoken about the people who treat mental disorders – psychiatrists. We need medical students to choose psychiatry, but we know that a lack of public understanding and recognition of the profession can be off-putting to young doctors.

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“Our campaign has to explain what psychiatry is, combat stigma around mental health and the profession and make the case on behalf of patients that services are better with psychiatrists. It is a rich, multi-layered campaign that has taken a royal medical college into new outlets to ensure we have the widest reach with our messages.”

Catcheside joined the college last year, having previously been a director at the agency Champollion – now part of Instinctif Partners – and previously worked as a BBC journalist. She has since recruited head of external affairs Rebecca Couper from the charity Drinkaware and comms officer Louise Forsyth from agency Kaper.