How brands are supporting conversations about mental health.

In the wake of all that’s happened this year, mental health has been brought to the forefront for many people and businesses.

September is here and we are entering another phase of the pandemic. For the first time since March, schools are open and with that comes mixed emotions like fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and a little excitement. For parents, caregivers, and young people, the return to school marks a resumption of some degree of normalcy. It doesn’t feel the same as previous years, though. Students must get used to new rules and caregivers are left wondering how to continue juggling work and the possibility that schools might close again. Stomachs are full of knots and minds are racing with anxious thoughts.  

Nine months ago, many of us sat at our desks dreaming about the goals we wanted to achieve in 2020 and beyond. None of us put surviving a global pandemic on that list of goals. Even though the pandemic affects each of us, we have all been impacted in different ways. Parents were forced to figure out work, round the clock childcare, and virtual learning. Business owners had to make emergency pivots in their business like creating online stores or offering virtual services. People have lost jobs, social connections, and support.  

So far, this year has been a wild ride. In addition to the health effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we have also been dealing with significant economic and social impacts of the virus. The health crisis has amplified important issues and shone a spotlight on specific challenges faced by people in our communities. There is a disparity in how different populations have been affected by the virus. We’re all in this together and it is time to start collectively dealing with the economic, social, and emotional impacts today and into the future.

Mental health conversations are becoming less taboo

If all that wasn’t enough to rain on your 2020 parade, add to it the massive social justice issues and racism that have disproportionately negatively affected Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Canada. Anti-Black racism in Canada has been identified as a public health issue. Recently, the Toronto Board of Health declared it a public health crisis. This, combined with the effects of the pandemic, has led to an increase in mental health challenges and exacerbations of existing ones. With these challenges, come opportunities for evolution. For example, discussing and addressing mental health is becoming more accepted and prevalent. While we still have a long way to go, starting the conversation is an important first step, especially for BIPOC that have been previously excluded.

To keep the conversation moving towards actionable and sustainable outcomes, many parties play an important role. This includes the government, the medical community, protective services, financial institutions, and employers just to name a few. Even smaller brands and businesses become part of the fabric of our society and do not operate independently of it. This means they can have a positive impact on tough subjects like mental health.   

Anti-Black racism
Anti-Black racism has created health and social inequities for many Canadians.

Brands can have a positive impact

Brands can start by acknowledging that each of their customers is unique and has different experiences of the same situation. Taking the time to understand a customer’s lived experiences is the cornerstone of creating products, services, and marketing messages that have a positive impact. Here are some brands excelling in this area.

Maqoba

Maqoba is a Canadian-based organization that directs a portion of their proceeds to people who need mental health treatment but are unable to afford it. Sales are generated by a carefully curated selection of products including apparel, home décor, candles, paper products, and more. This purpose-driven organization ensures those who can’t afford mental health treatment are provided with therapy sessions and necessities like meals, care packages, and leisure activities. The organization was founded by Olabiyi Dipleolu, a data scientist who is passionate about mental health and ensuring that everyone who needs help can access it.

DRKBeauty

DRKBeauty is a digital community that supports women of colour and diversity. This lifestyle brand focuses on promoting content that prioritizes the needs and stories of women of colour. The women who engage with their content are seen, heard, and their unique experiences are reflected back to them. Part of their purpose-driven mission is to help women heal, survive, and thrive. The company has launched a healing initiative to donate 10,000 hours of free therapy to American women of colour negatively affected by COVID-19.

Reitmans

Reitmans is Canada’s largest women’s clothing retailer. This year, the company extended an invitation to seven Canadian women to share their stories to promote values like inclusion, diversity, and empowerment. The Wear Your Support campaign supports causes including the Victoria Literacy Connection Foundation, the Urban Native Youth Association, and the Pinball Clemons Foundation. Each of the ambassadors created a t-shirt that reflects their values and causes, giving people an opportunity to wear something representative of their personal journey.  

Moving forward together

Purpose-driven businesses are born out of a desire to create a better world. They do that through products, services, and solutions that have an impact on the customer and beyond. This year has seen its share of setbacks. Through those setbacks, many people have started giving more thought to what matters. Many are redefining social contracts and setting forth to create a better society for everyone. The combined effects of the pandemic, long-overdue widespread confrontation of systemic racism, and social injustices have improved awareness of the impact of these factors. A resolve has emerged to begin dismantling oppressive systems and facilitating access to resources for all. Of course, it is not the responsibility of brands alone to address the mental health needs of their customers. But brands can help the process through more inclusive messaging, better listening, and acceptance of a narrative that is different from their own.

Visit us on social media to share businesses you have come across that are doing a good job tackling this subject, either by having conversations about mental health or promoting products and services that have a positive impact on mental health. The more we support these businesses, the more successful they will become, and the greater their positive impact will be! 

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