The Western Australian Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) plays an important role in improving health outcomes for Western Australians across a range of priority areas, including mental health.
After completing a comprehensive brand architecture review, Rare was engaged by WAPHA to develop
an awareness campaign to help reduce suicide rates among at risk individuals and groups, with two key segments identified:
1. Men aged 25 – 54 in the Midwest region (focus on FIFO, farming and fisheries industries), and
2. Young people aged 16 – 24 living in Perth’s southern suburbs (Peel and Rockingham).
In addition to these key audiences, it was also important to engage parents of the younger audiences, along with family members, friends and friends of at-risk individuals, as well as the media and general public.
Many people are unable or unwilling to talk about what they’re experiencing, so we needed to find a way to connect with our audience on a personal level.
Research suggested that there are a number of barriers/issues that the campaign needed to address in order to create a positive effect and behavioural change for those vulnerable groups directly suffering (the effected) and/or those who are indirectly affected (the associated) – friends, relatives, workmates, etc.
Research also showed that the most effective way to do that is to get help for people with ‘emerging depression’ – very early in the depression spectrum. The earlier the intervention, the better the chance of survival.
To ‘frame’ the problem we needed to work back from the potential catastrophic worst-case scenario of suicide. Some 69% of people who commit suicide have been identified as suffering with depression and research suggests that the key warning sign/symptom of oncoming depression is isolation.
We believed that if we addressed the issues of isolation we would in-turn reduce the potential for depression and therefore positively affect the rate of those vulnerable groups who are committing suicide.
The overarching approach when it comes to depression and mental health awareness is encouraging people to talk to others. Talk to friends, talk to family, talk to a professional. While this is right, and should be encouraged, we felt we needed to provide another option to those who may not be ready to talk just yet; those sufferers who think that if they ask for help, they need to remove their ‘mask’ and people will find out about their illness and judge them. We needed to provide a bridging option for people that, in time, would get them to talk to someone.
We also recognised the need to give people a single resource for all the information and local services they might need. A private space where they can explore what depression is, how it affects people, and the range of ways in which help is available.
To get people to this website we needed to help them acknowledge that what they were experiencing might be depression.
The stigma of mental health issues within these two groups is still very real and prevents a lot of people, especially young people (16 – 24) and working (breadwinning) men (24 – 54), from seeking help or even acknowledging that they may have a problem. The social stigma and fear of losing status, friends or their job, is for many so intense that they hide it for years and don’t ever seek help.
After consulting with a psychologist we learnt about the variety of ways in which people describe the experience of depression when it sets in. It became clear that hearing different people talk about their own lived experience would be very powerful and give them a sense of the diversity of the signs of depression. The psychologist confirmed that empathy is an extremely powerful tool for communicating with people with depression.
We commissioned and filmed highly accomplished artists as they each depicted one of four sufferer’s stories of depression, turning their words into expressive portraits that captured all the emotion
and cogitation in a single, powerful image. The portraits served to highlight just how different the four individuals’ experiences were.
The longer form videos took the communication a step further, and included information about the subjects’ journeys to recovery, and how they manage their depression on an on-going basis. This reinforces that getting help will have a positive impact and there is hope for a return to strong mental health.
We engaged a number of talented artists to visualise each story of depression in a way that would capture the emotion in an arresting way. In doing so, it made it easier for friends and family members to understand what each person suffering from depression was experiencing.
The campaign has attracted significant positive feedback among community groups, individuals and industry experts.
The metrics achieved have been particularly encouraging given the very focused primary audience we were targeting, with highlights from 8 March to April 29, 2019.
In addition, the psychologist we consulted was very impressed with the end result, and made the point that people with and without depression would have different take-outs.
Those without would get the informative message: “depression looks different for everybody.” Those with depression would identify with the emotions and feel compelled to visit the website to find out more.
Finally, there was also an unexpected outcome for all participants – the subjects all considered the process to be part of their recovery, and found an enormous sense of release and happiness in seeing their portraits. The artists all felt a very strong connection to their subjects, and felt grateful and honoured to have had the opportunity to participate. It was a very positive experience for all concerned.