Depicting mental health in advertising

It’s important now more than ever to raise awareness in our community about mental health and mental ill-health. Advertising can be a great way to reduce stigma, so long as the content is created responsibly.

Address the topic in a respectful and sensitive way

You should do some research and ensure you have a proper understanding of the topic you are addressing. You then need to justify why you are addressing this topic in your ad, and make sure that you do not trivialise the issues that are being addressed. 

Avoid using stigmatising terminology and language

It’s important not to encourage the stigma around mental health. Use terminology and language that is supportive, positive and prevents reinforcement of common stereotypes. The language you use is important to make sure you do not present any inaccuracies about mental ill-health, or mental health care.

Learn more about the responsible way to portray and communicate about mental ill-health on the Mindframe website

Include help-seeking information 

The Australian public are becoming increasingly concerned about how mental health is depicted in advertising. In 2021 the Ad Standards Community Panel found two ads in breach of the health and safety section of the AANA Code of Ethics for failing the include help seeking information and support services.

The first was an ad for a social enterprise which used children’s voices to discuss sensitive topics including cyber-bullying and anxiety. The second ad was for a yoghurt company that very briefly depicts cyber-bullying.

In both cases the Panel considered that there is a community expectation that when issues of significant community concern, especially regarding mental health, are used in promotions, information on where people can get help should be provided.

Ask Ad Standards

The fastest and most cost-effective way to check whether a campaign is likely to meet community standards is through our Ad Standards Copy Advice Service.

Finally, if you or someone you know needs support you can contact Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) or Lifeline (13 11 14).

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