Adman: Smashing mental health stigmas

Aaron Hackett
By Aaron Hackett | 3 August 2020
Aaron Hackett

Your friendly neighbourhood Adman has succumbed to melancholy. He hasn’t shaved in a week; his mo-hawk is wilting and has been wearing the same superhero costume, for two weeks now—tracksuit pants and a jumper.

The second Melbourne lockdown is really sinking its teeth in, and flinging him around, wildly in its jaws, like a puma or even a jaguar. Wait, this is Adman, so, it’s got to be a lion. Yeah. We'll go with a lion.

Adman has partnered with Mentally Healthy who have performed a mental health study across the advertising and media industry.

Our industry is far above the national average of workers showing symptoms of mental ill-health. A quote from their site states; 20% of us show severe symptoms of depression, with 24% showing severe symptoms of anxiety. Wow. We are an anxious bunch.

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Instead of trying to fix the symptoms, our industry needs to have a long, hard look at the cause; the old, race to the bottom. We post flyers in the toilets about mindfulness, yoga, EAP services, and how we are ‘people first.’ Which leads to this kind of feedback:

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I have been a beneficiary of the below statement. If it wasn’t for my manager taking this action, I would have ended up a like a fried, ugly and shriveled up potato. For which, I am still, very grateful.

The race to the bottom is something out of the individual's control, kind of like Rona. So, I want to talk about changing the stigmas around mental health. To let you know that depression and anxiety are treatable and beatable. It's not game, set, 'Rona.

I’ve gone through this before. Situational depression. It sucks hard. It sets in when you’re thrown out of your routine, or a life changing event happens. I’m here to give you an allegory, but I want you to think of depression and mental health overall, like an infected wound. The longer you let it fester, the sicker you become. Throw away the old notion of, you're tough, you can deal with it yourself. Some things you just cannot see and therefore can’t fix by yourself.

I made a doctor’s appointment for a mental health plan review, filled out a mental health plan, and the doctor was great about it. He was telling me that since COVID began, the rate of mental health plan creation has exploded. 44% of respondents said that they had received some sort of professional treatment for mental ill-health in the past 12 months.

Don’t be ashamed. Adman certainly has no shame.

I booked in a psychology session, filled out the appropriately named SAAD-50 & DAAS-42 questionnaire. The session went well. We simply chatted about what’s happening, how I’ve been feeling. We agreed that me checking on worldometers, death and new case toll, plus seeing the arguments on social media, wasn’t helping. I’m taking a semi-social media break, not looking at unexplained death toll, and reeling in my sensationalist news consumption. I’m going to throw it aside like it’s a worthless carp.

I want you to walk away knowing that mental health and mental illness, are two very different things. We exist in a mental health continuum, which is like the way our physical health yo-yo’s up and down. The worse our situation is, the worse our overall health can become. However, we have stigmas derived from books, movies and TV shows, that only portray the severely mentally ill. It can make us not want to talk to someone.

I have a terrific quote from Jenya Holland, head of brand at batyr, a social purpose organisation and one of UnLtd’s charity partners: who sums it up perfectly:

“When we run our batyr programs at schools, universities and corporations, we always start with asking people to write down all the words that come to mind when thinking about ‘mental health’. At the start, 90% of these words have negative associations – words like ‘suicide’, 'anxiety’, ‘depression’, 'isolation' etc. Keep in mind, we ask about 'mental health' - not mental ill-health or mental illness.

Whilst it's so important to talk about the hard stuff like suicide and anxiety, these words don't give us the entire picture. During the session we share stories that smash this stigma, and help our audience appreciate that mental health exists on a spectrum. At the end of the session, we see a more realistic picture of mental health, framed by words like 'balance', 'resilience' or ‘courage’. Words that focus on the positive and productive things we can do to move ourselves from one end of the spectrum to the other.”

Since visiting the psychologist, and following through with the suggestions, I’ve felt much more relaxed and the sadness has abated, like all rainy days do.

Adman is on Facebook, feel free to reach out, I’d love to have a chat.

 

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