Over the last few years, there has been much more conversation about mental illness and mental health—thanks in part to campaigns like these, which highlight the progress we've made in eliminating the stigma around discussing mental health issues.
1. "THE POWER OF OKAY" // SEE ME SCOTLAND
"The Power of Okay" is best when seen off-guard. The ad is structured to make you, the viewer, feel mounting anxiety alongside the narrator, making the final, unexpected question "are you OK?" hit you like a brick. This ad from See Me, the Scottish mental health organization, stands out for how compelling and effective it is with its "gotcha" finale.
2. "NOT MYSELF TODAY" // PARTNERS FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Not Myself Today is a campaign from Canadian charity Partners for Mental Health that works to end mental health stigmatization in the workplace. Their television advertisement, depicting a woman hearing a coworker crying in the bathroom, almost helping, then ultimately walking away, is so good for how realistic the advertisement is (and not even just in the workplace).
3. "DEPRESSION" // HEALTH BOARD PROMOTION SINGAPORE
The Health Promotion Board in Singapore has several different mental health de-stigmatization campaigns, but their campaign to help people better understand what it’s like to have depression is one of their most popular. The ad shows run-of-the-mill responses to typical questions about how we’re doing, such as "It’s nothing," but interlaced with a hidden message of "It’s [hopeless, and I’m good for] nothing."
4. "THE STAND UP KID" // TIME TO CHANGE UK
Time To Change UK’s main aim is to end mental health discrimination, and their ad The Stand Up Kid portrays the stigma young people experience when they speak out about their mental health issues.
5. "HEALTHY MINDS ANTI-STIGMA" // HEALTHY MINDS CANADA
This ad from Healthy Minds Canada does a brilliant job at framing how disrespectfully most people treat mental illness.
6. "UPSIDE DOWN CAMPAIGN" // SAMARITANS OF SINGAPORE
Upside-Down Ads Reveal The Subtlety Of Depression
The Upside Down campaign from the Samaritans of Singapore, a suicide prevention charity, went viral a few years ago for this artful advertisement. The shocking ad initially displays an uplifting phrase on its face, but when flipped upside-down reveals a message of desperation. The secondary message is hard to decipher without literally flipping your screen, and doing so just might make you gasp at the heartbreaking hidden words.
7. "STOP THE STIGMA" // CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION
The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with several strong ads as part of their Stop the Stigma campaign. These ads feature bosses and managers talking about employees who have cancer, but rather than speaking about it in the sympathetic way people usually do when coworkers have serious illnesses, they talk about it in the same way people talk about mental health. ‘"Is it just a crutch?" and "Is it just a made up illness to get out of work?" are a few examples of the ways these two ads talk about cancer—common ways employers talk about employees with mental health.
8. "CALL BULLS#!T" // PARTNERS FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Call Bulls#!t is one of many campaigns from the Partners for Mental Health in Canada. Their PSA outlines several common ways young people suffer from mental illnesses and the ways in which those illnesses are treated as illegitimate problems, but that’s just one part of the larger campaign. By pointing out the arguably ridiculous criticism faced by people with serious illnesses, Call Bulls#!t helps empower people to do as the name says, and call bulls#!t on the people who criticize and stigmatize their very real problems.
9. "YOGA" // MAN THERAPY
Leaning more toward comic relief, Man Therapy is a charity to help men talk about their mental health issues. This is the only campaign from the US on this list, and it has a uniquely American approach, with a gruff, Ron Swanson-style narrator.