You’re more likely to know someone suffering from heart disease than one from depression. That’s because throughout history, people have viewed people with mental disorders the same way they’ve viewed people with criminal liability, if not treated the same way.
As a result, people with such conditions have difficulty being open about their condition, more so seeking professional help. A 2013 study by researchers at King’s College London revealed that seven out of ten people worldwide don’t get treated for their mental disorders. Aside from the stigma, they also have little to no idea about their condition and treatment options.
Mental health institutions have struggled to combat this millennia-long lack of awareness through information campaigns. However, it’s become clear that these efforts need to be elevated to better educate people, whether they have mental disabilities or not. They could perhaps learn a thing or two from the following campaign tips.
Improve Patient Outreach
Peer support goes a long way in helping patients cope with their conditions. Talking to a friend or family member might not look much, but its effects on improving the quality of life of the person afflicted are clear and present. In many cases, it even manages to turn patients themselves into providers of said support.
On this note, there are other ways to take this a step further. Keeping the public informed isn’t just about educating them but also reminding patients of their treatment day. For example, text messages telling them of their therapy or vaccination schedules or notifying them of any delay help highlight the importance of such treatments.
As this also serves as a means of peer support, institutes should have an actual human on the other end of the line. While they have some automated features, many campaigns like the Relatient health campaign and similar advocacies can lead patients to a human caretaker who could settle their schedules seamlessly and address any concerns.
Maximize Every Medium
Today’s campaigns have access to a broader range of media than in centuries past. While print and written media have been around the longest, there are also broadcast (e.g., TV, radio) and online media (e.g., website, social media) to consider. Running a campaign tailored for each medium can reach more people in a short time.
Research by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada discovered that running a mass media campaign increased visits to psychiatric departments in hospitals. After running a campaign that promotes mental health awareness in 2010, several hospitals in downtown Toronto recorded spikes in such visits within two years of the campaign.
Of course, running campaigns on TV and radio can be expensive, and not all institutions could afford them. Nevertheless, institutions should educate people where they can, especially on social media. It doesn’t cost anything to start a social media account, and it won’t cost much to upload engaging and informative content.
Tell The Whys and Hows
Despite medical advances, mental health is still not fully understood, much like the human brain. So far, there appears to be no consensus on how anxiety or depression actually affects people. Unlike an open wound, mental disorders could be hard to diagnose and treat. For example, depression could hide behind a smile, with friends and family none the wiser.
Campaigns can feature info posts on what depression is, but virtually everyone may already have a rough idea. Such posts might not succeed in convincing many people that mental illnesses are real. After all, how can one see the problem if there are few to no symptoms present?
It has been suggested to include ‘the hows and whys’ in any discussion regarding mental health. On top of what depression is, campaigns should talk about how it affects a person and why. Giving people tangible indicators of illness, such as sudden weight gain or occasional symptoms, goes a long way in increasing awareness.
Follow It With Action
Urging a more serious discussion on mental health issues is good and all. However, concise action should follow all that talk. You’ve seen the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, but they aren’t going to clean themselves. In some cases, someone will wash them but for a fee.
It’s said that the problem with relying on awareness alone is that other people will jump on the bandwagon but only to advance their interests. There have been stories of important figures showing support or empathy to the mentally challenged, citing them as inspiration to everyone else but not following it up with concrete action on their part.
With more people feeling confident talking about mental health problems in the open, campaigns should encourage everyone involved to act. This call to action should feature concrete and rational steps to increase awareness and mitigate cases of mental disorders. Institutions should explain how they’re doing their part and how others could be a part of the solution.
Choose Words Carefully
Campaigns should be mindful of the language they use during their run. The last thing anyone going through anxiety or depression wants to hear is dismissive talk, like “that’s just life” or “people have it worse.” They don’t need any more negativity in their lives.
In fact, one great idea for a campaign may be to dismiss that dismissive talk, urging people without mental illnesses to stop using disorders as part of the vernacular. Being particular about the specific arrangement of books in your room doesn’t necessarily make one obsessive-compulsive. It’s more complicated than that.
Campaigns should assure both the healthy and ill that they always have someone to lean on, be it a family member, close friend, or healthcare worker. Educating healthcare workers on carefully choosing their words helps.
The time to eliminate the stigma of mental health issues is long overdue. The 21st century isn’t as reliant on superstitions as the days of old, given that information is now more accessible than ever. When made for the right purpose, a mental health campaign will leave a strong impression, perhaps changing people’s points of view for the better.