Just one big headache

I have a thing for google images.  I decided to type “mental health” in the search bar and see what came up…I saw an interesting trend that I would like to share with you.

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I see two things from these people grasping their heads, it looks like they are having really bad headaches or they are all really sad or stressed.  I know that it is difficult to visually get the idea of mental illness across.  But it is a complicated concept.  Unfortunately images like these imply that mental illness equals sad or headache.  It makes it all feel so simple.  Most of these images are stock images too and when you do a little research it is interesting to see what they are attached to.  Some are connected to articles about stress, one about how racial discrimination hurts the mental health of African American women, one is about panic attacks and anxiety, one is from an article called “How your financial health can impact your mental health.”

Try putting some search terms into google images and see what happens.  It’s an interesting activity.

More from BeyondBlue

BeyondBlue is the National Depression Initiative.

I used one of their signs that they use to advertise in a previous post.  This was the sign:

Don't be afraid to ask for help, you'll get it...apparently

It calls on those experiencing mental illness to speak up.  It states “Postnatal depression and anxiety.  It’s OK to ask for help.”  And you know what, it IS OK to ask for help and no, not everyone knows that.  But I compared this sign to a campaign from SANE Australia because it advocated for others to recognize the signs of mental illness.


Well BeyondBlue has other signs too.  Here are 3 they have regarding depression.  They are all men, perhaps to contrast the postnatal depression ad that features a woman…I don’t know…how much thought do you think went into these decisions?  These men are, in a way, describing their depression.  The woman is an ad focused on anxiety.

While somewhat awareness raising they are more like sob stories.  Look at how horrible these people look.  The one smile is from the woman who “Spoke Up” about her postnatal depression and anxiety.  I’m not saying the models should be smiling about depression and anxiety, the ones in the SANE signs campaign aren’t.  I am just curious about the different message being sent.  I honestly can’t name the different message yet but I’ve been thinking about it.

sane(signs)

This is SANE Australia:

What we do
SANE Australia is a national charity working for a better life for people affected by mental illness – through campaigning, education and research.

SANE conducts innovative programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their family and friends. It also operates a busy Helpline and website, which have thousands of contacts each year from around Australia.

Headed by Executive Director Barbara Hocking OAM, SANE is a leading independent NGO campaigning for the one in five Australians affected by mental illness every year. SANE relies exclusively on donations and grants to achieve its goals and receives no ongoing government funding so every dollar counts.

They have an interesting campaign called the Signs CampaignIt is supposed “to promote understanding of the early signs of mental illness, and highlights the importance of getting help for those affected.”  I took that quote from their website.

It’s rather creative, here are some of the “signs”

I actually like the play on the word “signs.”  I feel it’s an engaging way to address this issue and I like that it is a focus on others to pay attention, be aware and not telling people who need help that it is their responsibility to get it.  Kind of like this ad from a similar campaign with, what I believe are the same positive intentions: 

Don't be afraid to ask for help, you'll get it...apparently

Now the campaign that this ad is from has some other ads that don’t put the responsibility on the person who may need the help.  Empowering people to ask for help is important but I really appreciate the efforts of SANE Australia’s signs campaigns to encourage awareness of the signs of mental illness.
That said we could talk about the faces and images they use to represent depression, anxiety and so on.  But I’ll leave that for another time.

Check out this slideshow for other “signs”

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