Mental health is the sum total of the state of our emotional, social and psychological well-being. The state of our mental health affects the way we think, act, feel, handle stress, and treat others. Hence, it is important to be mentally healthy throughout each stage of life. More than ever, mental health and society’s ability to handle its issues are being taken into consideration when it comes to branding and marketing. The number of people affected by mental health issues may explain why there is an increasing interest in understanding the human mind and emotions. Statistics reveal that about forty percent of people in Europe alone are thought to suffer from mental illness. These large percentages exist in developing countries as well. The World Health Organization predicts that depression will be the third highest cause of death in low-income countries and second in middle-income countries by the year 2030.
“By doing the simple things you start to raise awareness of the spectrum of [mental health] issues, what you can do about them, and how you can have slightly more open conversations about things that people don’t necessarily want to talk about”Matt Atkinson, CMO at Co-op, NED at Unidays.
Dubbed the mental health watchdogs; the Citizens Commission of Human Rights focuses on qualitatively measuring aspects of human thoughts, emotions, and families instead of subjectively reducing them statistics and data. For the CCHR, the real problem lies in the stigma that comes out from psychiatric labels.
With these real-life issues and startling numbers, companies turn to their branding and marketing to raise awareness. And that is for a good reason because mental health can be cyclical, both affected by the environment around us -and- it affects the change makers of the world, for better or worse. Branding and marketing experts not only influence the mental well being of the public with strategically placed billboards, timed radio broadcasts, and disruptive TV commercials, but also most of the people that work within a public relations profession are themselves a victim of their surroundings. In the past, a target audience’s overall mental health was frequently ignored. Now, taking into consideration a group of people’s mental state can have a direct impact on how well brands perform and how desired actions can be achieved.
The CMO of Saga Matt Atkinson believes that before companies and organizations raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health, they should start from within themselves. To improve the internal understanding of mental illness, he took a variety of initiatives such as enrolling his staff on a ‘mental health first aid course’. He said, “By doing the simple things you start to raise awareness of the spectrum of (mental health) issues, what you can do about them, and how you can have slightly more open conversations about things that people don’t necessarily want to talk about”. Head of Social Marketing Katherine Crawshaw believes that brands can avoid using clichés by providing open communication channels for people to freely talk about the issues that concern them.
PJ Mealiff, a marketing specialist in Engage, suggests that incorporating positive messages in marketing efforts. Several companies have already begun to add that advocacy into their marketing campaign. Fitbit empowered fans to set fitness-related goals in their marketing strategy. Mind and Rethink Mental Illness set up a site where media and advertising outlets can download free images depicting mental health in diverse photos that do not evoke stigma. Beyonce helped Ivy Park to reach out to women who are scared or anxious about exercising and being active. Pixar created public awareness about mental health with its movie Inside Out.
Branding and Marketing’s effect on mental health does not always have a positive connotation. CCHR shamed the Big Pharma for teaching people to believe that they have a medical condition called a psychiatric disorder by ironically being the main sponsor for the campaign to Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness. The CCHR has several psychiatrists who contend that psychiatric disorders are not medical conditions because the diagnostic process for the former does not include laboratory and objective tests.