Unity uses inspirational fitness figure in mental-health campaign

Richie Norton, a one-time rugby player turned health and wellness guru, who describes himself as a "lifestyle architect and founder of the Strength Temple", is the face of a mental-health campaign launched by AXA PPP Healthcare this week.

Richie Norton, the face of the #Headstrong campaign
Richie Norton, the face of the #Headstrong campaign

The #Headstrong campaign, devised by Unity, aims to achieve parity between mental and physical health.

It was launched yesterday, to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, and takes a 'complete health' approach to mental and physical fitness.

#Headstrong Introduction from AXA PPP healthcare on Vimeo.

The campaign aims to redress the balance between mental and physical health so they are treated as two halves of a whole.

Key messages are that there is only one health, made up of the mental and the physical, so we need to take care of both and stop segregating mental health.

Designed for a general audience, the campaign is using social and traditional media, owned channels for content and advice and earned channels for advocacy and messaging, with no paid support or advertising.

It will run throughout 2019, and possibly beyond, and is calling for workplaces to change the way they deal with mental health by placing it on a par with physical health, to help ensure that wellbeing strategies can be more effective as a result.

Norton plays a prominent role in the campaign, including fronting a series of short films on subjects ranging from mindfulness and breathing exercises to showing people how they can have stretching and exercise sessions without having to leave their desks.

"Physical and mental health are two parts of one whole. Our mental wellbeing is so crucial to how we navigate life and the inevitable challenges we all face, but few of us approach mental fitness in the same way we do diet or exercise," Norton said.

"Working with AXA on Headstrong is incredibly important work for me, giving people the tools to help themselves at their own pace and on their own terms as part of a single mental and physical health approach."

Norton added: "A healthy body is lost without a healthy mind and vice versa. We’re aiming to change the nation’s mindset around health, getting them talking about and interacting with mental and physical health as a complete concept."

Shifting the debate

Gordon Henderson, marketing and innovation director at AXA PPP healthcare, said: "We are excited to launch Headstrong. We hope that the campaign will truly change the dialogue around mental health, taking us beyond destigmatisation to normalisation."

He added: "The world has embraced the lexicon of physical health in the last decade like never before. Now it is time for our mental health to be as important and embraced as our physical health."

Henderson said: "The only way to achieve this is viewing them as one. Physical and mental health contribute to your health and we are dedicated to everyone achieving the best health possible."

Tracy Garrad, chief executive of AXA PPP Healthcare, described the campaign as "a statement of intent and the first step in an important direction".

Tackling the taboo

This comes amid rising concern over the prevalence of mental illness, which is suffered by one in four adults each year, with one in two people having had a diagnosable mental-health condition at some point in their life and almost one in three having thought about self-harm and suicide.

Mental health remains a taboo subject for many people.

Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare, commented: "Mental health is often excluded from regular conversation where physical health is a common topic.

"We talk about going to the gym, going for a run or attending an exercise class with pride, but as a society are reluctant to discuss how we keep our minds healthy, let alone how we approach mental illness."

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