Mental health campaigns are on the rise – and it’s easy to see why. The past few years have upended our lives. We’ve been navigating mass uncertainty, tight-roping blurred work-life boundaries, and trying to avoid an ever-evolving virus. It’s been a rough ride, to say the least.
44% of consumers say their stress/anxiety levels have gotten worse because of the pandemic.
Our latest stats on mental health, published in Connecting the Dots, tell a grave picture:
- Young people, in particular, have been disproportionately affected. 50% of Gen Z say their mental health got worse compared to 37% of baby boomers.
- Many employees report worsening levels of mental health, regardless of whether they work from home or not.
- 25% of US consumers experience stress at least occasionally, and 23% experience anxiety.
- 77% of consumers across all the markets covered in GWI Zeitgeist are concerned about Covid-19 variants.
Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise consumers around the world have made looking after themselves a priority. 2022 is the year of you: two-thirds of consumers are now more conscious of looking after their physical and mental health.
Brands are showing their support for this shift, too, with a series of successful mental health campaigns for their customers and employees.
In fact, the global vacation week began to trend in 2021 as a way to combat company-wide burnout. Bumble employees had a paid week off, and Nike shut its offices, with LinkedIn, PwC, The New York Times, and even Google following suit.
In short, even when you’re on holiday, your working life ticks away without you, leading to FOMO, sneaky email checking, and out-of-office paranoia. But if the entire assembly line decides to pause, you can too.
The growing need consumers have for mental health help can also be tracked against the number of people turning to tech solutions. According to digital health pioneer, ORCHA, “the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns saw a 200% increase in the use of mental health apps. But far from falling away to pre-pandemic levels, the use of mental health apps has continued to grow at an average rate of 55%.”
Meanwhile, our data shows that in the US alone, the portion of consumers consulting a doctor/healthcare professional online has increased by 36% since Q2 2020.
10 successful mental health campaigns
For consumers, mental health awareness campaigns aren’t necessarily efforts to win business, they’re brand-building exercises in standing up for the things that really matter. They can also be a way of building brand loyalty, speaking from the heart, and authentically connecting with consumers.
Here are 10 mental health campaigns to take notes on – and a rundown of what made them so successful.
1. JanSport – Lighten the Load
We’re all feeling the effects of COVID-19. But are some generations feeling it more than others?
JanSport, the American brand of backpacks, decided to do their own research to see how their Gen Z target audience was fairing, and how they might be able to help in some small way.
7 out of 10 young people say mental health is weighing them down. This was just one of the insights the team uncovered through Pew Research.
It also revealed half the Gen Z population felt they adequately managed their stress, while three out of 10 said they felt anxious or nervous almost every day.
#LightenTheLoad campaign was created to drive open conversations among their target group around mental health.
JanSport was on a mission: to connect people with “real tools” to “unpack” the mental health crisis.
If you’re not sharing it you’re carrying it. If something’s weighing you down, let it out with #ShareItChallenge to help lighten the load.
Messages like these formed the basis of the campaign, all about promoting “strength through sharing.”
Asking young people across the country to give a glimpse into their mental health journey and how they #LightenTheLoad by sharing, they created a curated film series.
The films worked to normalize conversations of this nature with stories told by real people tackling topics like depression and anxiety, family conflict and coming to terms with identity.
Kicking off in May with weekly Instagram Live sessions timed to Mental Health Awareness Month, young people tuned in to take part in open conversations between mental health experts and influencers.
Why it worked
Knowing their audience sat squarely in the Gen Z bracket, JanSport could investigate the biggest pain point they needed to offer support for, proving to them they were listening.
“#LightenTheLoad has already seen unprecedented engagement between Gen Z and the JanSport brand,” said Monica Rigali, Senior Director of Marketing at JanSport.
“We’re finding 2020 continues to be a year of change, growth and unity which, for JanSport, reiterates the importance of truly listening to the issues that impact young people and working to provide a platform for their voices.”
2. CALM, Dave and Murdock London Barbers – How Are You Doing
Dave (the TV channel) and CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) have been partners since 2018, encouraging positive conversations around mental health.
For World Mental Health Day, 10 October, they wanted to remind people that open conversations can be had anywhere, and even the most serious things can be met with humor.
In the six months after the government announced the first UK lockdown, the CALM helpline answered 71,261 calls and chats;
“That’s over 12,000 hours talking to people and 645,240 chat messages exchanged around topics such as isolation, anxiety, relationship concerns, health worries, financial stress and suicidal thoughts”, says Simon Gunning, CALM CEO.
People were struggling – this they knew.
Following the success of their lockdown specials, Dave, CALM and Murdock (a London barbers whose staff are trained in mental health first aid) wanted to give people more resources, and help them get through some unusual times with a touch of comedy.
How are you doing? You’d probably say fine right? Even if you weren’t fine? Weird isn’t it. Not wanting to be a bother.
The campaign featured co-branded messages like these in Murdock’s stores, TV ads, social videos, and five new episodes of the hit podcast, ‘Conversations Against Living Miserably’.
“As always, our campaigns feature an element of humor, because the aim is to be uplifting whilst promoting important conversations – whether that be with friends, chatting to a barber, or someone at the other end of the CALM helpline”, says Dave channel director.
Why it worked
If Dave and CALM’s award-winning campaign “Be the mate you’d want” is anything to go by, we’re expecting big things. Their ideas are proof that if you listen close enough to what your audience is saying, you’ll get your message on point.
The CALM helpline is available 5pm – midnight, 365 days a year on 0800 58 58 58.
3. TBWA – Sound the Excuse
Working from home has quickly become our new norm – and if there’s one term it brought with it, it’s “Zoom fatigue”.
TBWA\London partnered with the award-winning men’s media platform, The Book of Man, to help us with one thing: baling on video calls.
80% of Brits said working from home had a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.
This was the insight the agency uncovered from their one research into the issue – and they decided to try and help.
Stuck on a stressful video call? TBWA has you covered.
Across the microsite ‘Sound the Excuse’ are a number of excuses to choose from: Vomiting cats, pigeon’s flying in through the window, a flatmate stuck in the toilet…
Built to help you escape the tyranny of video calls, they make a good point:
No one should have to make excuses to look after their mental health.
The campaign launched across social and digital outdoor screens on World Mental Health Day.
Why it worked
The future of work may very well be remote, as our latest research into 10 countries shows. And with mental health concerns remaining paramount, many need something to laugh about – so this is certainly a relevant campaign.
Staying close to the latest consumer trends and coming up with timely solutions is key.
4. Heads Together and the FA – Heads Up
Research ahead of the campaign’s release revealed the most common cause of death for men under 45 is suicide.
The campaign discusses the general stigma around mental health, as well as the lack of understanding around how to support those suffering with it. But as a group, men are less likely to ask for support and less well positioned to offer support for others.
Harnessing the popularity of football to drive its message, Prince William, the main spokesperson for the campaign, announced its release at Wembley Stadium on May 15th.
“As President of The FA I saw an opportunity to bring the sport I love – that many men talk about more than anything else in their lives – to help lead the next phase of the conversation.”
The campaign rolled out at all tiers of the sport, from grassroots to the elite, to reach the largest number of fans possible. But while aimed at everyone, they hoped football’s unique ability to reach men in particular would drive the dialogue among the high-risk group.
Why it worked
Aside from national news coverage, the FA‘s global influence, and big-name sponsors like Emirates, this year’s FA Cup Final was even renamed the Heads Up FA Cup in support of the season-long mental health campaign. The important conversation keeps on going.
5. See Me – The Power of Okay
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 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 with 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 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.
6. Instagram – #HereForYou
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.”
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 one-minute campaign video featured 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.
7. TheLADBible Group – UOKM8?
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.
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.”
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 like 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.
8. Time to Change – In Your Corner
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.
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 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.
9. Mind in Harrow – People Like Us
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.
But many 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 among BME communities locally and increase engagement.
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 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 tagline, 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.
10. Young Minds – Wise Up
Young Minds offers mental health support for young people across the UK, guiding them through their challenges and helping improve mental resilience.
Wise Up was released to increase awareness of mental health issues in UK schools.
According to an article published by its creators, the campaign aimed to put pressure on “the government to rebalance the education system to ensure the wellbeing of students is as important as academic achievement”.
Wise Up’s cause was supported by a wealth of mental health insights which brought to light the depth of the problem in schools, as well as the breadth of causes that trigger mental health problems (such as exam pressure, social media and bullying).
- 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental disorder
- In the last 5 years, 90% of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety, stress, low mood or depression.
By placing the importance of mental health on a par with academic achievement in schools, Wise Up sought to bring attention to the damaging emphasis on performance over student wellbeing.
The campaign took the form of videos with supporting written content, including a full report, to catch the attention of the general public as well as the Government’s school inspection body, Ofsted.
Wise Up requested signatures from the public supporting its request for government initiatives, specifically, that Ofsted should measure schools on its attention to mental health.
Young Minds anticipated this would encourage every school to put funding toward student wellbeing initiatives.
Why it worked
Since the launch of the campaign in 2017, they have delivered an open letter of 10,000 signatures to the Prime Minister and launched a Wise Up report in parliament, where over 40 MPs showed their support.
Their voice was also heard directly by Ofsted and arrangements were made to discuss what needs to change in schools to support students.
*This article has been updated. It was originally published in August 2019.
Useful mental health resources:
- World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH)
- MindEd, a free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults
- Mental Health Foundation, support and research for good mental health
- Mind, the mental health charity
- YoungMinds, the voice for young people’s mental health and well being
- Heads Together, a mental health campaign led by The Royal Foundation
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), preventing male suicide in the UK
- SANE, a leading UK mental health charity
- Samaritans, confidential support
- Optimale, on men’s health and wellbeing