Mental illness – two words that carry an inordinate amount of stigma. As a subject that is becoming increasingly current in everyday life, and as we learn more about the many different forms it can take, I want to take a moment to think about how we can use modern day marketing to promote awareness for positive mental health.
Mental illness is the term we use to group a range of conditions that cause disturbances in the sufferer’s thoughts and/or behaviour. To a greater or lesser degree, this results in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. As it stands in 2016, there are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Of these 200 forms, we most commonly hear about clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and dementia. Every single person today is either directly or indirectly affected (through family or friends) by one of these illnesses.
Marketing campaigns can play a pivotal role in positive mental health awareness
The stigma associated with mental illness is still the biggest barrier preventing people from getting the help they need. How can we as a community use online marketing to break down these barriers in order to promote mental health awareness and positivity around this topic?
The first step in any marketing strategy is defining your audience. Understanding who you’re talking to is vital when it comes to promoting your business – whether you’re a B2B or B2C company. Pretty simple right? But, have you ever stopped to think about and delve a little deeper into your audience for a few moments? (If the answer is No, it might be time to take a hard look at your marketing strategy!)
Who is affected by mental health issues?
The fact is, a typical audience today is affected by mental illness in a number of ways. According to research published by RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) in 2013, 1 in 5 young Irish adults aged between 19 and 24 years’ old, and 1 in 6 young people aged between 11 and 13 years’ old were experiencing a mental disorder at the time they took part in two HRB-funded studies on mental disorders among Irish youth.
The research also found that experiencing mental ill-health in early life places young people at increased risk of further episodes of mental ill-health during their adult years. As marketers, we need to learn from these statistics. We can use them to be much smarter when we interact with and portray mental health issues with our audience and our employees.
We can incorporate positive messages into our marketing campaigns. Let’s take Boots, a well-known brand, as an example. The health and beauty retailer has taken steps to better understand the psyche of one of its core customer groups, launching a long-term campaign to engage with teenagers and identify how it can better support their health and well-being.
According to survey results reported by Boots, the majority of teens want more access to advice about how to improve their self-confidence. Can you imagine what would happen if 20% of your target audience was positively affected by your marketing message? Your work could be helping and even saving the lives of hundreds, or even thousands, of people!
Think about the messages your marketing sends
So, the next time you’re creating a new campaign, don’t just create a generic ad – make it MEAN something! Create a real message. A newcomer to the health and fitness world has recently done just this. Fitbit is a wearable product that is changing the future of fitness. They’ve made a name for themselves in terms of marketing, especially on Facebook.
Instead of focusing on product promotion, they actually focus heavily on physical and mental health – with exercise tips and encouragement. Their strategy is rooted in empowering fans to set fitness-related goals. When you like the Fitbit page, it’s almost like you’re joining a fitness support group. Many of their posts consist of inspirational quotes and resources to help you stick to your health and wellness regimen.
Positive mental health marketing can impact not only people dealing with mental ill-health, but also their friends, family, and acquaintances. Even those who aren’t affected in the slightest could be educated on the topic. How can you ensure the message is suitable? Forget about not offending them and instead concentrate on appreciating them!
Understand the issues involved
I’m not going to say I’ve been ‘lucky enough’ to have never suffered from a mental health issue, because it’s not about luck and I know it can strike at any time, in any walk of life. However, I am passionate about it because many people I know and care about have suffered, or currently suffer, from mental illness.
When you experience anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression second hand, it gives you a new appreciation for the people that deal with it every day. If you could spread a message through the medium of marketing to let people know they’re not alone and that help is out there, why wouldn’t you?
Sufferers of mental health problems tolerate the worst of days, but their daily successes mean so much more. With proper treatment, people with a mental health condition can be the best of us. Educate yourself on the issues and the people affected by mental illness, and you will find new ways to incorporate this market segment into your messaging and, hopefully, your clientele.
There are tonnes of resources when it comes to mental health in Ireland. If you want to learn more about the work they do or support them, financially or through volunteering, here are a few sites that may be of interest: Pieta House, Aware, Reach Out, Mental Health Ireland.
It’s time to eliminate the stigma and create a new lease of life for mental health awareness. There is no health without mental health.