A dozen standout campaigns about mental health

In honour of World Mental Health Day, we picked 12 of the best recent mental-health campaigns from APAC and beyond.

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, and to mark the role our industry has played in raising understanding about issues such as anxiety, depression and suicide, we present this list of a dozen excellent and mostly recent mental-health campaigns. 

Behind the mask
2020 | Hong Kong
Mind HK

We'll start close to home with this empathetic work from the fine people at MindHK. Like many of this year's mental-health campaigns, it focuses on stresses exacerbated by the pandemic. But we find the central concept—of people's real struggles being hidden behind a mask (literal or figurative)—to be eloquent and worth remembering even in non-pandemic years.

Suicide notes talk too late
2016 | Australia
The Movember Foundation by Cummins & Partners

This campaign made our earlier list and appears here as well because it's one of the most powerful and hard-to-shake pieces of work you're likely to ever see, full stop.

Locked down and out
2020 | UK
LGBT Foundation by The Gate

Another lockdown-inspired piece, this is a beautifully made film about a beautiful person facing a horrifying situation. It's also a great example of how, at its best, our industry can advance understanding and empathy by helping people see from different perspectives.

Hidden pain
2013 | Singapore
Samaritans of Singapore by Publicis Singapore

The oldest campaign on this list made a lasting impression by vividly demonstrating that signs of distress can be hidden in plain sight.

Whatever gets you talking
2020 | USA
Ad Council by Droga 5

The US Ad Council has been working on its 'Seize the awkward' theme for a few years, urging people to overcome their reticence to ask friends and loved ones how they're really doing. This year, the campaign centrepiece is this delightful and advice-filled music video by a rapper called Akinyemi.

Knowing nothing
2019 | China
CEO Roundtable on Cancer-China by BBDO Shanghai

The responsibility employers hold for ensuring the mental health of the people they employ has rightfully gained attention over the last few years. This twist-ending story from China makes the case in a highly compelling way.

John Kirwan
New Zealand

No list about mental-health campaigns in APAC would be complete without discussing the partnership between the New Zealand government and retired rugby great John Kirwan, which stretches back to the late 1990s. By frankly and openly discussing his struggles with depression, Kirwan has made an enormous difference in erasing stigma and encouraging people to seek help. We can't find the earliest ads online, but here's two examples from 2010 and 2013.

2018 | India
Suicide Prevention India Foundation by WATConsult

This video is meant for repeat viewings: first with closed-captioning off and then again with captions on. A clever use of technology to call attention to unspoken signs of struggle.

Ask twice
2018 | UK
Time to Change by Ogilvy

This one stands out for using humour to make a great point, which is perhaps not surprising for an organisation partly funded by Comic Relief.

Naughty or...
2019 | US
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) by Wieden+Kennedy New York

It might seem weird to have a Christmas campaign in a collection of mental-health work, but please, please watch this remarkable video. A long, slow zoom accentuates an incredible performance by Greg Hildreth (say his name, because performers in this industry never get enough credit!), as Santa's seemingly unfocused musings home in on an important realisation. This is an uncommonly thoughtful message, perfectly delivered.

Depression looks different for everybody
2019 | Australia
WA Primary Health Alliance by Rare

This elaborate campaign out of Western Australia paired people who have suffered from depression with artists who transformed their states of mind into works of art. We particularly like Michael's vivid description of the black rhino on his shoulder (video below), but all of the stories and paintings (pictured below) are worth a look. They not only expand our understanding of the many ways depression can manifest but also urge us to see beauty in the way people fight to recover.

Safety is everything
2019 | Australia
WorkSafe Tasmania by Red Jelly

Great filmmaking craft delivers a great message about how workplace safety should mean more than dry floors and ergonomic chairs. (See two more videos from the same campaign.)

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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