Cover: Evaluation of Los Angeles County's 2019 "Spark the True You" Mental Health Campaign

Evaluation of Los Angeles County's 2019 "Spark the True You" Mental Health Campaign

Published Jun 25, 2020

by Rebecca L. Collins, Nicole K. Eberhart, Rachana Seelam

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.2 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. What were the characteristics of those attending the campaign events?
  2. How aware were attendees of the campaign?
  3. What were attendees' attitudes and experiences related to mental health and use of mental health services?

In 2019, Los Angeles County, in partnership with the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team, conducted a promotional campaign involving a series of events and associated materials under the title "Spark the True You" (STTU). The campaign's goals were to destigmatize mental illness by normalizing the experience of mental health problems; to educate, assist, and activate a community of support for military women, women veterans, and their families; and to highlight the value of women veterans to their communities. Many women veterans experience posttraumatic stress disorder or depression or have experienced military sexual trauma, and rates of suicide are 1.8 times higher among women veterans than nonveterans.

STTU involved events related to employment opportunities, veteran programs, stress management, self-care, families as sources of both stress and support, rehabilitation, homelessness, and diet and exercise, and STTU was also integrated into Sparks games. In addition to the games and events, advertisements on local television, posts on social media, and street advertising were used to promote awareness of STTU and its messages.

The project team evaluated the reach and impact of the campaign using online and in-person surveys. Overall, although the STTU campaign sometimes struggled to reach individuals, it successfully provided new information about how to improve mental health and access relevant resources among those it did reach. The most-successful methods of outreach appear to have been Sparks games and social media posts. Most participants perceived STTU events and materials as providing new information about the key topics targeted by the campaign, including mental health and how to connect to care.

Key Findings

STTU attendees included substantial percentages of women veterans and family members of service members or veterans

  • Attendees tended to be over 30, nonwhite, and well educated.

Roughly half of participants did not recognize campaign branding

  • Many campaign events were sparsely attended.
  • Sparks games attracted the most participants, and the majority of game attendees were exposed to the campaign.

Most participants reported that STTU events and materials provided new information about mental health or how to connect to care

  • However, the most-common forms of STTU exposure — games and events — were the least likely to be viewed as informative.

A minority of survey participants held stigmatizing beliefs about people experiencing mental health challenges

  • Overall, levels of stigma appear to be slightly lower among participants than levels observed in a prior study of California adults, and support for those with mental health problems is somewhat higher.

The vast majority of survey participants said that they would seek professional help for a serious emotional problem

  • However, more than one in four said that they would delay doing so to hide the problem from others.
  • Treatment delay was almost double that observed among California adults overall.

Most survey participants could recognize signs of mental health problems in others and knew how to provide support

  • However, one in four lacked information about how to support others.


  • Ensure that outreach efforts are effective by clearly establishing the dates, times, and places of events.
  • In future campaigns, focus on sporting events as venues for dissemination of messages and move away from attempts to hold separate wellness events, where partnerships with teams may provide few immediate benefits.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and conducted by RAND Health Care.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.