5 Mental Health Campaigns that Made a Difference

Mental health is a global issue and brands are getting more creative about increasing awareness around this important area of healthcare. Much of this is down to intelligent use of data, enabling marketers to interrogate the numbers and understand where the barriers to communication lie, building a campaign that really works.

For 2018’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we look at how five of the most impactful mental health campaigns have drawn on powerful consumer insights to create messages that resonate.

1. The Power of Okay – See Me

See Me, Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, identified the workplace as a common place where such challenges occur. To tackle this issue, it commissioned a YouGov poll aimed at identifying the underlying causes of such stigmatization and discrimination, surveying 1,165 Scottish workers about their attitudes towards mental health.

The Insight

The results showed that 48% of people don’t tell their employers about mental health concerns for fear of losing their job. In addition, 55% thought that someone in their workplace with a mental health problem would be unlikely to disclose it for fear of being moved or passed over for promotion.

Fear was a common denominator for both employers and employees.

The findings highlighted the importance of talking in order to combat this fear. As the charity stated: “Our research provided us the insight to adopt a different tone. We embedded the language people used to describe their own illnesses. We empowered the audience to make things better by using the simple but powerful ‘Are you okay?’”

The Message

The resulting campaign was a video based on a poem which encapsulated this need to get people talking and asking colleagues, ‘Are you okay?’. It was shown in cinema and online, and was supported by a radio campaign.

The campaign launched in November 2015, with website views growing by 42.8% as a result, while attracting 73% of new website visitors and a 22% visitor return rate.

Why it Worked

See Me identified the fear factor and tackled this by adopting people’s everyday language in the campaign. In particular, it challenged people to think again about the common turn of phrase, ‘Are you okay?’, normalizing the all-important conversation about how someone is feeling, yet reinforcing its importance.

2. #HereForYou – Instagram

Earlier this year, Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post: “Every day on Instagram, we see people share their mental health journeys and connect with communities of support. From dedicated accounts around an issue to unique hashtags adopted by groups, these communities are helping to make illnesses that are often invisible to friends and family visible through photos and videos.”

The Insight

This insight into the number of people turning to social media in search of mental health support inspired Instagram to launch its #HereForYou campaign last May. It was intended to encourage the existing community of people on Instagram to better support one another and find the appropriate help, spreading their support wider.

The Message

The one-minute campaign video features three Instagram users talking about their past struggles with eating disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The campaign used its flagship hashtag #HereForYou for the campaign – one that was already commonly used by Instagram users.

Why it Worked

Instagram recognized its platform had already spawned a community of people who come together to share experiences and to seek – and find – support.

It tapped into this very real need by formalizing its role in connecting people with the help they need, ultimately growing its community.

3. UOKM8? – TheLADBible Group

In September last year, TheLADBible Group launched a three month social content campaign entitled UOKM8? aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues among men. It was inspired by the fact that suicide is the biggest killer of British men under 45, and supported by its own audience poll which revealed that 37% of respondents had at some point considered ending their own life.

The Insight

As Ian Moore, from TheLADbible Group said:

“Around half of all British men between 18-24 follow TheLADbible and I believe that by opening up our platform so our audience can talk about these issues, we can persuade young men to give themselves permission to talk about the feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression that they currently keep secret.”

The Message

TheLADBible partnered with a range of charities in an effort to engage its youth audience and get men to talk to each other. The campaign launched with Everyday Heroes, a series of documentaries featuring influential men, including Olympic gymnast Louis Smith talking about his own experiences of depression. This film alone attracted 3.8 million views on Facebook.

Content also included articles such as Why Treating Your Mates Who Suffer from Mental Health Issues Differently Is Bullshit, which reached 900,000 people; and Here’s How Social Media Can Affect Your Health, which reached over 600,000.

The campaign reached over 38 million young people and drove 823k engagements.

Why it Worked

TheLADBible’s audience data showed that it had the attention of around half of all British men aged between 18-24. This meant it was perfectly positioned to reach one of the most vulnerable audiences affected by mental health issues – and they could do it on their terms, in their language.

4. In Your Corner – Time to Change

Time to Change is a charity that campaigns against mental health stigma. This year, it launched In Your Corner, a five-year campaign inspired by 12 months of research into men’s and young people’s attitudes towards mental health, including feedback from 18 focus groups across the country.

The Insight

This work spawned a number of insights into the barriers that prevent men in particular from opening up on the topic of mental health, chiefly that they are far less likely to report their own experiences of mental health issues or to discuss mental health problems with a professional.

The Message

The new campaign urges men to recognize how their attitudes and behaviors can influence others’ experiences of mental health problems, and that being in a friend’s corner can make all the difference.

The ‘In Your Corner’ campaign launched with a film featuring three heroic ‘corner men’ – ordinary guys who are seen to be actively supporting and listening to a mate when he needs them.

The films are being promoted online and supported by poster advertising in pubs and gyms.

Why it Worked

The campaign taps into the insight that men are likely to avoid mental health as a topic of conversation, whether it concerns themselves or a friend, colleague or family member.

By using a sporting analogy sprinkled with humour, the campaign overcomes the feeling of awkwardness, while serious elements ward against flippancy and useful content inspires people to share it with others.

3. People Like Us – Mind in Harrow

Harrow is the ninth most ethnically diverse local authority in England and Wales, with over 40 different ethnic communities.

27% of mental health cases in the area are among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. Yet many people from BME communities who do have access to support services tend to access them at crisis point.

In 2009, Mind in Harrow were commissioned by Harrow PCT to develop and deliver a mental health promotion campaign, targeting people from BME communities. The aim was to raise awareness around mental health and services amongst BME communities locally and increase engagement.

The Insight

Mind carried out a mental health needs assessment with BME communities in Harrow, including workshops and one-to-one meetings with the target audience. One key finding among the Asian group was that many people turn to religion and believe that faith helps them cope with everyday life, with people more likely to seek help from religious leaders than from GPs and mental health service providers.

The Message

The resulting creative featured photos of individuals from the BME community along with the tagline ‘People Like Us’, which appeared on posters, fliers and booklets. A new website, peoplelikeus.info was also developed.

Figures showed that the campaign reached approximately 75,000 individuals from BME communities, and prompted 375 requests for signposting to mental health promotion workshops or other services. It has also resulted in 20,000 unique visitors per year to the website.

Why it Worked

By using powerful imagery of diverse people from distinctive communities, coupled with an all-embracing tag line, the campaign successfully relayed the message that mental health issues don’t just affect one ‘type’ of person, and that help can be found beyond individuals’ own ethnic or religious communities.