Based off of DoSomething.org’s Support Board campaign building support for students who suffer from mental illness.
To view how I am working to #StoptheStigma, follow the links below to an infographic on Mental Health Awareness and my Instagram page featuring brave faces taking a stand to end the stigma about Mental Health.
At least three times everyday, I see commercials sponsored by police departments and the government trying to end distracted driving. These commercials are often times elaborate and longer than normal commercials, using tactics to pull people in so they understand the severity of the situation, and the commercials change every few months. After much research, only one helpful government website supporting mental health is found .GOV Site, and it is drastically less inviting and informative than other websites supporting the issue. If we as a society can put this much into a cause that stops such a major problem like distracted driving, how are we not doing this for mental health awareness as well. “Shorenstein said the anti-texting campaign has become the company’s second biggest social-action project, after its grant program for high-school education. She didn’t offer an exact figure, but told me that the company had spent millions of dollars on it over the past four years” (Crouch, 2013). Corporations are spending millions of dollars to get people to stop texting behind the wheel. If we put the same amount of money and energy into something that people suffer with everyday rather than putting it to end human stupidity, we would be able to help save so many people from the constant struggle they face every day within their own minds because society has made it where they will be seen as less than if they admit to having a mental illness.
Even though the texting and driving campaign is serious and useful, my goal for this was to make mental health awareness a topic that is talked about as often and widely accepted as texting and driving.. As a society, we need to Stop the Stigma, continue conversations about mental illness, educate from a young age, and support those who are struggling instead of forcing them to hide away. Numbers don’t lie, and in the US 1 in 5 adults experience some form of mental health problem every year. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) has puts togethers major statistics and data sheets that every member of society should know, NAMI Fact Sheet. May is Mental Health Awareness month, but we should be working on this issue more than just one month a year, it needs to be a topic of regular conversation to the point where there is no more stigmatization around it. We should be to a point where we look at someone struggling and accept it just as normally and easily as we accept someone who has a cold or allergies; just because someone is going through a mental struggle doesn’t make them any less of a person, they are still the exact same they just need a little help.
To start my #stopthestigma mini campaign, I created an infographic sharing details that can educate people about mental health. Starting with explaining mental health, giving examples of what different mental illnesses are, who can suffer from these, how many people do suffer everyday, different stigmas associated with mental health, how those who suffer are viewed and why they hide, how people can be treated and recover, and how everyone can help normalize mental illness so people feel comfortable enough to not hide away this part of them. The second component to my mini campaign was to start an instagram page solely dedicated to sharing stories and views on mental health. I reached out to 15 people I know in college, study social work in grad school, and in professional careers such as nurses and paramedic to get their take on mental health. Getting takes from this group was important because for college kids, mental health is often brushed aside and told it is just stress from school, people studying social work get to do clinical work in settings where people suffer from mental health, and for nurses and paramedics, their jobs are mentally grueling and they often see and suffer from these illnesses that go unnoticed.
When I asked people to provide me with a picture of them doing an everyday activity and a statement about how they view mental health or how it affects their lives. My original plan was to show people doing things like eating in the dining hall going to the library, sitting on the beach because they are situations that they have to do and when people see them they would never think that they could be battling something within their own heads, I wanted to portray how mental illness is a unrecognizable problem. When I received the quotes and pictures from everyone, every person gave me pictures of them just looking happy and comfortable with themselves, this was even better because it shows that people can still live their life and smile, but something could be going on behind that persona. I posted all of the pictures to my page before I followed anyone so then no one saw the others statements before they handed in their own, once everyone saw them they could see how similar their views and feelings were with other people, showing how a lot of people can feel the same way but still hide it because it is almost unacceptable in today’s society to share the problems you’re dealing with. We need to be more accepting, educated, and loving towards those who are struggling or are helping people who struggle, mental health problems can affect anyone at any point in their life, we need to #StoptheStigma to make sure that those who struggle in the future get the help they need instead of hiding.
In order to make this campaign a successful piece of propaganda, I tried to play towards people’s emotions. Knowing this topic is often sensitive and can call to people in very different ways, getting an emotional reaction would be the best way to gain a following and target an audience. “Thus the argument is that the emotive quality of visual material feeds its vividness. Vivid visuals leave a rich and strong memory trace where less vivid information would fade. This establishes the salience of what it portrays” (Joffe 2008 pg. 85). An infographic is just a way to creatively carry facts in one easy to read spot, but starting a public instagram account would help solidify the point I was trying to get across. People respond well to pictures and visuals especially when they are on a social media platform that the majority of people use everyday. Attaching the face of a real person to a statement about their view on mental health or how it affects their life, gives a realness to the topic, you can look into the eyes of the person describing their struggle. People hide their problems behind a smile, and in almost every picture they are smiling, those who can connect with their feelings or have been one to tear down people in the past, being able to see people live a “normal” life while still going through a hard time makes you stop and think about what people really hide from the world. “The link between persuasion and visual material is highlighted here by making use of literature on health, safety and charity campaigns. A strong line of argument proposes that persuasion is effected by bringing an audience into a state of emotion” (Joffe 2008 pg.86). Two of the most common mental illnesses are Depression and Anxiety. Most people have either been affected by one of these or knows someone who has; that base information can change the emotional state of someone looking at this campaign; When they see the faces of those who are willing to come forwards, take a stand, and talk about a topic that means so much they may be inspired to do the same, help someone they know who is struggling or get themselves help if they are the ones who are going through the internal battle. One of the major positives to this campaign is the fact that it can spark people’s emotions for the better in order to make a change that society needs to see.
Crouch, Ian (2013, October 21). Why AT&T is Talking about Texting and Driving. The New Yorker.
Joffe, Helene (2008). The Power of Visual Material: Persuasion, Emotion and Identification. Diogenes 217: 84 – 93.