This Innovative Men’s Mental Health PSA Isn’t Quite What It Seems

Spot featuring England Rugby World Cup player Joe Marler has an unexpected twist for those who hover over it

This clever spot has a hidden message Campaign Against Living Miserably / CALM

When someone appears to be doing OK on the outside, it can be easy to assume that they’re doing OK on the inside. But that’s not always the case, as this simple but effective campaign film for U.K. mental health nonprofit makes clear.

The digital spot, created by agency Recipe for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), features England rugby champion Joe Marler, who has opened up about its own depression and mental health struggles after previously hiding them, including from loved ones.

The 70-second film is titled “Read Between The Timelines” and features Marler being interviewed after a match while his positive words run across the screen in large font.

At the end, Marler turns to camera. “How did that sound? Pretty standard?” he asks, before telling the viewer (assuming you’re using a mouse or touchpad) to hover the cursor over the YouTube timeline to reveal a hidden message and get the real story.

The text above the cursor reveals what he really feels, including that he is “on the brink.” At the end, the rugby player adds: “It can be hard to tell someone you’re struggling. So, no matter who you are, CALM is here to help you find the words.”

CALM said it commissioned the campaign after its research showed 84% of men admit to bottling up emotions, with nearly half (44%) saying they suppress their emotions at least once a day. Feelings of loneliness and isolation, it added, had also increased among men during coronavirus lockdowns in the U.K—where separate figures have shown male suicides to be at a two-decade high.

“I’ve struggled with my own mental health for the last few years, and it got particularly dark in the last 18 months. That is why I wanted to get involved in this project, to help others who feel the same as me, and try and help them understand that it’s ok to struggle, and that they are not alone with these feelings,” Marler said.

Too many men suffer in silence

“Rugby is the ultimate macho sport, and there is a fear that if you show any sort of weakness publicly then you’re giving free reign to the opposition to take advantage of any weakness,” he said. “I always worried that if I was to open up about my mental struggles that it would be used against me by opposition players or seen as a weakness by my own teammates. There’s definitely a stigma surrounding mental health but it’s far better than what it used to be. The more players have come out and opened up about it, the less of a stigma there is around it,” he added.

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, said: “There are 18 deaths by suicide every day in the U.K., with 75% of those being male. That is unacceptable. Like Joe, we all go through tough times, whether it’s the breakdown of a relationship, losing a job, financial worries, or going through a bereavement. But as men we sometimes we try to mask our emotions and put on a brave face.

“That is why now, more than ever, we must continue to challenge a culture that prevents men from opening up and seeking the help they need. It’s important we open up and talk about how we feel, and to not always take things at face value if you think someone close to you is feeling down.”


@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.
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