1. Thoughtful planning and research
    1. When building your campaign, start by defining how you want to impact your audience’s perceptions or actions. Research your target audience to understand barriers that may prevent your message from changing their perceptions or taking action and develop your campaign content in a way that tries to overcome those barriers.
  2. Audience feedback strengthens campaigns
    1. Get feedback from members of your target audience on campaign concepts and content throughout your process. This will ensure your message is resonating and you’re identifying the right action steps.

Storytelling Tips

Collaborate with subject matter experts or nonprofit organizations

  • Collaborate with experts who can provide guidance on campaign objectives and content. 
  • If you don’t already have relationships with subject matter experts and nonprofit organizations try to  establish those partnerships before creating campaign materials.
  • The Expert Directory is a good place to start.  

Identify the ideal results, in terms of actions and impact

  • While raising awareness is a positive first step, campaign content and messaging can also elevate the importance of taking care of one’s mental health as part of overall health and inspire audiences to take concrete actions to protect their mental health or support a loved one who may be struggling. 
  • The primary call to action for many mental health campaigns is to call a hotline or reach out to a mental health professional. However, some audiences might be unlikely to do either as a first step. Consider building a campaign experience that integrates more accessible actions such as engaging with real stories, talking with a friend, or integrating self-care and coping skills into daily routines.

Research your target audience and have members of that audience review campaign concepts and content to identify the actions they’re most likely to take and messaging that will resonate with them

  • Audience insights can help inform content before it has been developed, and can be gathered through social listening, working with experts, and engaging focus groups, etc. 
  • There’s a growing body of publicly accessible research on the mental health norms, attitudes, and experiences of different audiences, some of which is cited in this guide. Use this data to help fine-tune both your messaging and calls to action.
  • If you have the resources, testing messaging and campaign concepts with your target audience can increase impact. 
  • If your campaign materials are targeted at specific audiences with higher risk of mental health challenges and/or unique barriers to speaking up and seeking help, it’s critical to have members of that group or community involved at every stage of the process. 

Take an authentic, safe, and solution-focused approach to content development

  • Within campaign content, strive to normalize mental health challenges as part of overall health and well-being. Communicate ways to overcome or manage those challenges through self-care, support networks, coping skills, and/or help-seeking. 
  • Avoid using alarming statistics to raise awareness of mental health challenges. Focusing too much on the magnitude of the problem may be ineffective, or even harmful, for people who are struggling and already feel hopeless. 
  • First-person narratives involving substance misuse or suicide sometimes go into detail about the “how:” How they obtained drugs, hid them, or obtained means to attempt suicide. Avoid including these details in your final content, since people who are distressed may walk away with this information as “ideas” that could put them at higher risk.
  • Follow language guidance and safe messaging strategies if storytelling involves mental health conditions, substance misuse, self-injury, or suicide.

Approach personal stories with extra care and consideration

  • Research shows that authentic stories from real people are a powerful way to reduce stigma. Look for opportunities to highlight these stories in your campaign materials, but ensure these stories feel authentic, contain accurate information, and that the storytellers are emotionally ready to speak about their experiences publicly. 
  • Research potential influencer/celebrity spokespersons or storytellers, and gauge your target audience’s perception of them. Just because a person is high profile or has lived experience doesn’t mean they’ll be effective messengers or storytellers for your particular audience. 
  • Consider engaging an expert partner and doing pre-interviews to help spot warning signs that participants aren’t emotionally ready to share their story publicly. Whether you’re developing content with celebrities or everyday people, be aware that not everyone who wants to share their story publicly is at a point in their healing and recovery where they can handle it. 

If possible, create an ongoing connection with your audience

  • Some members of your audience — especially those who are resistant to mental health conversations and help-seeking due to cultural norms or life experiences — may need more than one interaction with your campaign before it resonates or leads to action. 
  • Social media is a powerful way to maintain an ongoing connection and can provide a platform to  highlight universal and tip-focused content that is relevant to people with a range of mental health experiences. This approach also reinforces the message that we all experience mental health struggles and we all need support from time to time. Note: If you are encouraging dialogue from audiences, ensure there is proper moderation and support is in place, in case someone reaches out in crisis. 
  • Make sure it’s clear at signup and in emails that the accounts are not being monitored consistently. Consider setting up an auto response on email addresses associated with the campaign to provide resources for people who may be in emotional distress when they reply to or send an email.

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  1. Addressing Your Own Mental Health
    1. When talking about how you support your own mental health, make it clear to your fans which approaches are based on evidence versus personal experience.
  2. Careful Messaging
    1. Develop relationships with advisors and/or nonprofit organizations that can help ensure your messaging is safe.
  3. Offer Resources
    1. Provide resources for fans who may be struggling, using our Expert Directory as a starting point.

Storytelling Tips

Integrate Professional Perspectives and Effective Resources into Social Media Content 

  • If the content you create for your platforms and channels allows for guests or expert commentary, use that opportunity to give professionals a voice. 
  • Work with experts or nonprofit organizations who can advise you on safe and effective mental health messaging, provide resources that you can point fans to, and suggest protocols for responding to followers who express distress, a need for help, or suicidal thoughts. 
  • Some effective ways you can integrate experts and mental health partners include: creating a custom landing page with a tone and selection of resources that best resonates with your community; including experts and/or representatives from organizations in your content; or hosting live events on Instagram or other platforms that allow your community to ask questions to mental health professionals.

Keep the Audience’s Perspective in Mind

  • Even if you aren’t presenting yourself as an expert, fans who feel connected to you or look up to you may take your perspectives and tips as fact instead of finding strategies that work best for their unique mental health needs. 
  • Use “I” statements and phrases like “in my experience” or “this is what works for me personally.” Emphasize that, as with our physical health, we all deal with unique mental health challenges and need to find solutions and support networks that work for us as individuals.
  • Be sure to emphasize that the approaches you’re discussing are based in evidence versus your own personal experiences.

Share Mental Health Challenges You Have Faced So Fans Facing Similar Struggles Will Feel Less Alone and Include Messages About Getting Through Those Challenges

  • Look for opportunities to share details about getting help and feeling better through support networks, self-care, coping skills, therapy, or treatment. 
  • When presenting these solutions or positive experiences, be just as detailed and vivid as you are when presenting your struggles to help fans walk away feeling hopeful and motivated to take action to support themselves or loved ones. 

Avoid Sharing Potentially Harmful Details

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  1. Reach a wide audience
    1. Short-form and digital content can help storytellers reach a wide audience with important messages about mental health.
  2. Balance darkness with hope
    1. Look for ways to balance the darker aspects of the story with hope.
  3. Consult an expert for guidance
    1. Consult an expert advisor, the same way you would for long-form projects.

Storytelling Tips

Aim for balanced storytelling

  • Short-form content provides less time and space to explore the full scope of someone’s mental health experience. Sometimes this means there is a heavier focus on the darker parts of someone’s struggle than there is on the positive aspects of mental health, like coping, recovery, or the treatment process. 
  • Look for ways to balance heavier aspects of your story and offer a message of hope to the viewer.

Consult an expert advisor, the same way you would when creating long-form content 

  • Collaborate with an expert partner to ensure that the snapshot you’re sharing does not perpetuate harmful perceptions, particularly if your story involves a higher risk group, someone from a marginalized community, or someone with a mental health condition that’s often misunderstood.

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