How to increase Russians’ support for charities dealing with mental illness

Research reveals that people with mental disabilities are not a favoured group among philanthropists


A study on “How can we increase confidence in social rehabilitation centres for people with special developmental needs?” has been conducted at the request of the Tourmaline Social Rehabilitation Centre.

Researchers found that those suffering with mental disabilities didn’t fall within a group which philanthropists feel are in most need of charity, but rather that they belong to a social category that must be supported by the State.

Barriers to trust

According to the research, only one in every ten Russian citizens has confidence in Russian charities. Publicising the results of an organisation’s activities and openness in reporting were among the list of criteria that increased public trust, while intrusive advertising and an absence of information on how a charity’s funds are distributed contributed to a lack of credibility in their work.

Obstacles that can get in the way of support for people with mental illnesses can be divided into two groups. Firstly, little is known about what causes mental disorders and the prejudice and stigma that these people regularly have to face. Secondly, it is impossible to see the direct result of a charity’s work and to know the outcome of individual acts of support.

Support drivers

Main ways for overcoming these obstacles are to:

  • Explain the nature of the problem, focus on examples, highlight real stories and genuine heroes;
  • Create links to non-material forms of support and involve the public in collaborative ventures.

The researchers made a number of recommendations to increase the public’s trust in NGOs and charities that support people with mental illnesses:

  • An NGO or charity must have the backing of a certain public figure such as a media personality who has a degree of credibility of particular relevance to the issues that are of interest to an NGO or charity. Or, there should be more personal contact, as well as contact from managers and staff;
  • Publications about employees should also be combined with expert articles from them about people with mental illnesses;
  • Make a clear distinction between NGO activities and Government responsibilities in supporting people with special needs;
  • Suggest different ways in which help can be provided;
  • Introduce an open policy of financial reporting and issue regular updates;
  • Thank people for their efforts.

Study methodology

The research was conducted using a qualitative-quantitative system. 500 people from different Russian regions were interviewed (the quantitative part). An online forum then took place involving 20 Moscow residents ranging from 18-55 years of age, who have had various experiences with NGOs (the qualitative part).


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