Ad Council Begins a $65 Million Multi-Year Mental Health Initiative

By Kyle O'Brien 

With nearly half of U.S. residents ages 16 to 65 saying they have a mental health condition, the Ad Council has announced plans for a wide-reaching and comprehensive communications effort, with a goal of raising $65 million over the next seven years.

Only about half of those surveyed (48%) in a new study released by the Ad Council said they are getting help or treatment for their mental health issues. Additionally, 43% do not feel comfortable talking to people close to them about their emotions and how they are feeling. That’s why the Ad Council is launching the effort to address the mental health crisis throughout the U.S. and encourage people to take steps to support their mental health.

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) has given a founding gift of $15 million to start the fundraising efforts.


On the heels of the nonprofit’s national Covid-19 Vaccine Education campaign, which reached more than 75% of those eligible to be vaccinated, the Ad Council is evolving the coalition-based and multi-audience model that made it so successful and mobilizing the advertising, media and marketing industries to address mental health issues facing communities across the country.

“We have all been touched by the mental health crisis—it’s one that we’ve experienced for many years, but which was greatly exacerbated by Covid-19 and a confluence of other factors including the ongoing fight for racial justice and the challenging economy,” said Lisa Sherman, Ad Council president and CEO in a statement. “We’ve seen the incredible progress that can be made when the Ad Council convenes a coalition of partners around a singular issue. Together, we’re uniquely poised to reshape the conversations around mental health and help millions of Americans when they need it most.”

Guided by mental health experts, amplified by partnerships across every sector and rooted in extensive research with key audiences, the initiative aims to change social norms, reduce stigma around mental health and encourage people to take a proactive approach to their mental health issues.

With the founding contribution from HMHI, an institute dedicated to psychiatric research, education and treatment at the University of Utah, the Ad Council will bring together a coalition of leading mental health NGOs, including American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, the Jed Foundation, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Council for Mental Wellness, Peg’s Foundation and the Steinberg Institute; federal agencies and private sector corporations for this collaborative effort.

The effort will be rooted in deep cultural insights and informed by a panel of experts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), The Curtis Center for Health Equity, the Chester M. Pierce MD Division of Global Psychiatry, The Jed Foundation and the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, GLAAD, the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, among others.

Funding will support the development of an insights and analytics engine to inform and evaluate the impact of relevant content, an extensive trusted messenger program, employer workplace resources, grassroots community activations and a large scale multi-pronged communications effort with discrete campaigns and open-source partner toolkits for populations in need.

To reach communities of color in a culturally relevant way, the Ad Council is also developing a comprehensive “ground game” strategy in partnership with agencies who have deep expertise in the Black community (JOY Collective), Hispanic community (Latinovations) and the faith community (Values Partnerships). The Ad Council will collaborate with community-based organizations including UnidosUS, culturally relevant programs including How Sweet the Sound, and trusted messengers to provide mental health education programs, conduct events and coordinate town halls.