Opening up about our mental health has always been considered a difficult topic. Up until recently, people were unaware of the meaning behind the term ‘Mental Health’ and what it involved. Understanding mental health and the issues that many people face is a relatively new concept. Thankfully, now in the 21st Century, people are becoming more accepting of mental health struggles; they are not as ignored as what they once were. According to public affairs expert and mental health advocate Katrina Gay, the stigma surrounding mental health is continuing to breakdown and the public relations sector has had a huge impact on this breakthrough.
The public relations industry and the progression of mental health understanding work extremely well together. This is the case more so now than ever due to the digital advancements and the growing use of the Internet within the public relations sector. People do not want to be defined by their mental health issues; they want to be accepted for who they are as a person and valued for their personal qualities and skills. The Internet and particularly social media platforms, have provided people with a voice to express themselves with.
Creating campaigns to remove the stigma attached to mental health has become an increasingly popular method to achieve this goal. However, the way in which these campaigns are approached needs careful thought and attention. Mental health is a sensitive topic for many people to discuss, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and distress if approached in the wrong way. A fantastic campaign currently run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry known as Heads Together, has made tremendous improvements to how mental health is viewed by society. These Royals used their statuses to their advantage to promote mental health awareness. The campaign reaches out to a range of audiences such as young people and people who have lost loved ones. A fantastic way in which they promoted their campaign was to get involved in the 2017 London Marathon. Each runner that took part in the London Marathon received a ‘Heads Together’ headband and a letter from the three Royals wishing them luck on their marathon, and to also show support for Heads Together. This went viral, journalists, bloggers and mental health advocates instantly began to talk about this and what the Heads Together campaign was all about.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are great tools to use for reaching out to people about mental health. This can be through campaign promotion, setting up a Facebook page where people can talk about their mental health struggles and how to seek help, or posting a Twitter blog on understanding mental health. A great Facebook page currently run by ‘The Mighty’ has a range of tips and advice on coping with mental health difficulties.
The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) makes a huge effort to promote mental health care, particularly around certain times of the year such as Mental Health Awareness Week. They work alongside the mental health charity ‘AWARE’ and aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The CIPR also provides information for people working within the PR industry on how to manage stress and the struggles involved within this career. 59% of people working within the PR industry have experienced mental ill health. It can be a challenging career and the CIPR aim to make public relations professionals more aware of mental health. Also, how organisations within this sector can support employees who may be struggling.
People within the public relations profession have a knowledge on how to effectively communicate. By using their skills, they can help to continue to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health. This can be through an effective campaign, working alongside mental health charities and advocates, sponsoring events such as Mental Health Awareness week, or simply by publishing reports on current speeches or events that have taken place regarding mental well-being.
It is vital that we continue to work on how we can change the way in which mental health is viewed and what can be done to create a positive energy surrounding discussion on this topic.
Anna Haughian is a final year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @anna_haughian and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-haughian-667834131/