Spots Tackle Stigma of Mental Illness

NEW YORK The U.S. Health Department and the Ad Council are kicking off a multi-million-dollar, multi-year effort designed to remove the stigma attached to mental illness. WPP Group’s Grey provided the creative on a pro-bono basis.

The TV, radio, interactive and outdoor initiative stresses acceptance and the fact that mental illness is often highly treatable.

“The whole notion that people with mental illness can recover is a powerful message,” said Heidi Arthur, svp, campaign director at the Ad Council.

One spot shows two young men playing a video game. A voiceover explains how awkward it can be when someone reveals they are mentally ill. One young man turns to the other and says, “I’m here to help, man, whatever it takes.” The clip ends with the tagline, “Mental illness. What a difference a friend makes.”

Rob Baiocco, evp, creative director at Grey, said, “Many times when someone is diagnosed with mental illness, their friends abandon them. We felt that by challenging them we could say ‘You can take this on.’ It shouldn’t be a burden, it should be something you want to do.”

Previous campaigns addressing this topic from the Ad Council ran from 1956-1964 and 1985-1997. Those ads encouraged people to seek help and treat employees fairly.

The Health Department’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is supporting the campaign with nearly $3 million in media spending over the course of three years.

The next Samhsa-sponsored Ad Council campaign will focus on suicide prevention, said Arthur. That work from DDB is scheduled to debut in the summer.