According to new Ad Council research, nearly half of Americans 16 to 65 say they have a mental health condition, and less than half of that group say they’re getting help or treatment. Our country’s mental health crisis was already growing before the pandemic, and
cascading challenges have exacerbated it in many communities.
This month, the Ad Council announced our Mental Health Initiative, a $65 million multiyear effort in partnership with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, whose $15 million lead contribution is the single largest donation in the Ad Council’s 80-year history. The initiative will be made of multiple campaigns designed to reach various communities in need, including current campaigns for middle schoolers and caregivers (Sound It Out), young adults (Seize the Awkward) and veterans (Don’t Wait, Reach Out).
In addition to these audiences, the initiative will also address the needs of Black, Hispanic, rural, LGBTQ+ and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.
To talk about the size and scope of the mental health crisis, and the response needed from brands, organizations and agencies to help people get the resources they need, I sat down to discuss the issues with Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, CEO of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
Lisa Sherman: Mark, the scale of this crisis is so massive, but it’s so important to remember that it’s made up of individual people, each one with their own unique story. Could you talk about why this issue is so personally important to you and the foundation?
Mark Hyman Rapaport: Everyone is touched by mental illness and the shame and stigma associated with mental health problems. My mother suffered from severe recurrent depression for her entire adult life. She was remarkably brave but this was not something we could ever talk about. In fact, this was brought home to me when I applied to psychiatry residencies—when I mentioned during interviews that one of the reasons I became interested in psychiatry is because of my lived experience with my mother, I watched people turn off. For years I would not discuss my mother’s bravery because of this experience.
Sherman: There are so many ways to get involved in our new Mental Health Initiative, from developing and sharing content to distributing toolkits. How do you see the role that brands, organizations and agencies can play? What resources are most important to bring to the table?
Rapaport: First, both individuals and entities can join the Huntsman Mental Health Institute’s Grand Challenge at StopStigmaTogether.org and get involved in our existing committees and interest groups. Second, you can join with us and the Ad Council. Third, you can work with your team’s HR department to use materials we are creating to help change the culture of your workplace. And fourth, as an individual, if you see a friend or colleague who seems to have a change in behavior or has withdrawn, just ask them, “Are you okay? Can I help you?”
Sherman: When people are facing cascading challenges as they have for the last few years, especially among Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities, what do you see as the unique challenges in talking about mental health at this time in our history? What does a multiyear commitment yield and why is it so necessary?
Rapaport: All of the underrepresented minority (URM) and LGBTQ+ groups suffer from increased rates of mental health disorders, and in many cases increased or increasing rates of suicide. And it is very important to recognize that the solutions to the needs of these groups must take into account their unique cultural, societal and economic circumstances.
It is very important to reach out to formal and informal leaders of these communities, listen to their concerns and solutions, and work together to develop with members of the community the mental health resources they need. This needs to be a sustained long-term commitment where there is a true partnership based on trust and respect, something we are extremely focused on for our Mental Health Initiative.
Sherman: That is so true. Our COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative provided us with invaluable insights on building a ground game at the community level in addition to our air game. Could you talk about the role coalitions can play in making a positive impact? What is the value in bringing together resources and perspectives?
Rapaport: The most successful campaigns to change longstanding habits and beliefs rely on the power of many diverse organizations that share a common message and create synergies with one another. This social-impact model is like conducting an orchestra—each organization may have its own goals and ways of expressing its message, but like the different instruments in an orchestra, the coordination and creation of synergies lead to a sound that is more powerful and compelling than any one instrument alone.
Sherman: I love that metaphor, that’s very powerful. Thank you for your time and your commitment to addressing this unprecedented crisis—we know it requires an unprecedented response. And it’s so inspiring to see the care and resources being brought to the table.
To learn more about the Mental Health Initiative, visit AdCouncil.org/Mental-Health