Let’s talk about mental health

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The secret to communicating this tough topic to a family audience…


It can be difficult to talk about mental health, but that’s all the more reason to do it. This May, Mental Health Awareness Week brought a much‐needed focus onto this sensitive topic at a time when mental health issues appear to be on the rise. One in four people experience a mental health problem in England every year and this year it’s likely to be even more with the worry and isolation brought by the global pandemic. Poor mental health affects so many people, adults and children, that it is certainly an appropriate, important, and timely subject for brands to address. But it has to be done properly – especially when talking to a family audience.

Unfortunately, the topic of mental health still carries a stigma and has long been considered a taboo subject. Thankfully, this is starting to change with greater awareness being driven by campaigns from charities, brands and celebrities alike – normalising the subject and creating a more positive, inclusive public perception of it, after all, everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health! This increasing awareness is bringing conversations about mental health into the family sphere: parents and children increasingly want and need to understand, explain, or take action on mental health issues. Children may have close relatives who they’ve noticed behaving differently, or may find themselves struggling with their own emotions – the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 20 percent of 13 to 18‐year‐olds live with a mental health issue. This makes communicating about mental health to families even more important and brands can leverage their authority to play a valuable role in doing this. Experienced content creators can help brands successfully communicate mental health to a family audience, and here are the top five techniques they might use…

Make it relevant and authentic

Families are increasingly looking to brands for leadership on important subjects such as pollution, equality, and increasingly mental health. But a brand still needs to make its involvement relevant and shouldn’t just jump blindly onto the bandwagon. Consumers are sensitive to purpose-washing and will look for a valid connection between a brand and its mental health messaging to establish its sincerity. This makes it essential to really know your content’s objectives and what you want it to achieve – be that awareness, information or action. After all, purposeful content is powerful content!

Facts, not opinions

When writing about mental health, accuracy is everything. The subject still suffers from gross misrepresentation, and it is crucial to present facts not opinions. Objectivity and empathy are key, and they must come from careful research. Only use reputable sources, such as charities and medical websites, reading around the subject to really understand what you are writing about. Mental health conditions can be complicated so it may be wise to steer clear of specifics, especially with families, but if you do go into detail avoid jargon and keep it simple (without dumbing down).

Use real-life storytelling

Storytelling is always a powerful way to get your message across and it is especially true of mental health where empathy is so essential. It’s entirely acceptable to talk about your own experiences with mental health, and there are many stories out there that can be used to illustrate and explain the challenges people face. When content is grounded in real‐life stories it makes the subject more accessible and meaningful for adults as well as children. This helps a family audience to understand and connect with often abstract and complex ideas, bringing authenticity, sincerity, and authority to your content.

Craft your tone consciously

Mental health is a deeply personal and highly sensitive subject, so you have to use the right language and tone ‐ sympathetic and inclusive, not patronising or judgemental. At the very least, avoid using words that reinforce stigma, such as slang like ‘crazy’ or ‘mental’. Experts also advise against defining a person by their condition: saying that someone ‘has bi‐polar’ rather than ‘is bi‐polar’ distinguishes between the person and the condition they live with.

Stay positive!

As with any potentially upsetting subject, it is important to be positive. Don’t shy away from the challenges mental health brings but keep the content age‐appropriate and above all, constructive. Sharing stories of people who have overcome their challenges or found ways to live with them will offer hope and inspiration; providing links to relevant charities and organisations will enable people to reach out for help or encourage them to get involved as part of the solution. For families and children, seeing that there is a way through or something they can do to help is absolutely crucial.

Talking about big, difficult, real‐world challenges to families and children is something that we specialise in at Creature & Co.
Children are regularly exposed to scary news and events through television and social media, and the global pandemic has increased anxiety in children and families making mental health more relevant and important than ever. If you want more, take a look at our quick list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ when handling sensitive subjects.

Creature & Co. helps brands to tackle such difficult issues in an appropriate way. Whether it’s mental health or climate change, we use trusted techniques to hone content to a family audience, helping brands communicate effectively and positively with children and parents. We believe that brands should not shy away from difficult subjects like mental health: when done right, they can deliver a powerful message into the heart of a family audience, driving the positive change that mental health needs – now more than ever.

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