Changing Mental Health Conversation – PR can help
During Covid-19 symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder have escalated, however in media and popular culture, mental illness is still frequently presented as something to mock or dread. According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than half of patients with mental illnesses do not accept treatment or postpone therapy because they are afraid of being treated differently. Even in 2021, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against the 1 in 5 individuals in the United States who are suffering from a mental illness would continue to be an issue.
That imposes the question, how can we change the conversation about mental health?
Well, Public relations and marketing professionals can play a part by assisting healthcare and non-profit clients in sharing honest and accessible tales about mental health difficulties and recovery journeys as mainstreaming mental health and bringing attention to its broad consequences is critical especially in such era.
Here are some of my steps that will aid you as a PR professional:
Research Your Audience
Concentrate on the individual rather than the illness. Make an effort to comprehend the symptoms of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar illness. Don’t base your decisions on what you’ve seen or heard. You can’t believe what you read on social media or hear in the news because these disorders are frequently misunderstood and/or maligned. When talking about mental health with survivors or members of the media, be cautious what you say and how you say it. For example, according to Psychology Today’s 10 Commandments for Talking About Mental Health, you should avoid using terms like “mentally impaired,” “mentally handicapped,” or “mentally sick.”
It’s important to remember that the goal of sharing sensitive stories like a mental health survivor’s highs and lows isn’t to hurt by creating a spectacle, but to help by allowing the survivor to share their story in a way that supports their recovery and inspires others to seek treatment or find support.
Mine for gold
Your job as a PR professional is to mine for stories and the most essential thing to remember when story mining is that the aim is to find stories that may help you grow your client’s brand by engaging with audiences in meaningful ways, not just “man bites dog” story angles that turn an issue on its head.
Speak with internal and external stakeholders to identify standout employees, volunteers, patients, families, or donors who have compelling mental health stories that would not only highlight your client’s unique value proposition but also appeal to journalists. Not only are the best stories timely and relevant, but they’re also relatable, tug at the heartstrings, and have a clear call to action. Instead of focusing on what and how, consider why and who. Choose conscientious reporters who will treat your clients with dignity and respect when pitching mental health stories to the press.
Take good care of your stories.
Finding the ideal mental health story and persuading a writer to interview your client and/or constituency are great victories, but they’re only half the struggle. HIPAA standards and patient confidentiality apply to mental health survivor tales because our emotional, psychological, and social well-being lies squarely in the healthcare domain. Obtain permission from a survivor to put their name, words, and likeness on the record. This can be accomplished through an email chain or a signed media release. When it comes to stories involving children, more caution should be exercised. Discuss what survivors and their families are comfortable revealing and what is off-limits ahead of time.
Participating in media interviews is stressful enough without having to reveal one’s personal troubles. Provide conversation topics and potential questions ahead of the scheduled interview to help a mental health victim relax. You could also conduct a dry run to help them gather their ideas and iron out any nerves they might have before the interview. It might be beneficial to offer survivors the choice of solely participating in print, email, or phone interviews if they are very frightened about appearing on camera. This will not only put your interviewee at ease, but it will also help you avoid last-minute cancellations.