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Opinion

How Can Influencers Promote Mental Health Awareness All Year Round?

World Mental Health Day 2021 is taking place on Sunday 11th October. Each year, this day presents the perfect opportunity to raise conversations on global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma.

Many take to social media to voice their thoughts and feelings, namely influencers with large and engaged followings. However, is isolating conversations about mental health to happen just on World Mental Health Day potentially performative? 

Sravya Attaluri is a graphic designer and social influencer who creates art and sheds light on topics such as mental health, self-care, and feminism. For Sravya, these discussions are part of her dialogue year-round.* 

As World Mental Health Day is on the horizon, Sravya spoke to Talking Influence about how more influencers can make mental health a topic of conversation throughout the year. 

Sravya at work

Mental health is a difficult, and personal topic that affects everyone differently. When you have an audience on social media, what is the best way to share information responsibility?

I would suggest influencers and content creators share their personal experiences and always provide context. Topics like mental health are so sensitive and they can so easily be misinterpreted, put in the extra effort to explain where you are coming from.

I also like to provide a disclaimer that reminds people that I’m not a clinical expert and I also make sure to clarify my intentions when sharing such content on Instagram – which is in hopes of making one person out there feel less lonely. 

Do creators, influencers, and users with large followings on social media have a duty to share information about mental health on World Mental Health Day?

No, it’s never a duty. In fact, if it’s not something you normally share, it can come off as ingenuine. As someone who promotes mental health all year round, sometimes such awareness days can get frustrating as it’s an opportunity for brands to promote themselves, turning it into a capitalistic opportunity with themed launches and events. 

Your audience can see right through this. Especially with something as sensitive as mental health awareness. People want genuine, personal stories that are relatable. I think on these days, it’s important to highlight the advocates, medical professionals, and resources rather than using them as an opportunity for more engagement or a themed campaign.

In regards to building awareness around mental health, what sort of content do you think consumers prefer to digest?

In my experience, I found that visual imagery such as honest illustrations and lettering that are not overly optimistic but genuine in their messaging are well received. They are easy to share and are relatable to a larger audience. 

However, I also notice that my audience appreciates videos – whether that’s Reels, IG Lives or IGTV content, they appreciate unedited, raw, honest videos of what living with mental illness is like, how I cope daily and who I reach out to. 

For creators who are unsure how to approach mental health awareness day, and who don’t want to seem performative, what are some good ways to create awareness year-round? 

  • Continue to highlight resources, advocates and activists who are already within the mental health advocacy niche. 
  • Have an open dialogue with your audience and highlight their experiences. This is how you create a community of like-minded individuals rather than just “followers”. 
  • Instead of just talking about awareness, team up with mental health resources and providers to take action, donate or educate. 

Tell us some more about how you use your platform to shed awareness on mental health?

My art is a visual journal of my everyday experiences living with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and disordered eating. I share my art in hopes that it can help one person out there feel less alone.

I share my daily struggle with medication, routines, eating habits, and mood swings to highlight the realities of living with mental health issues. I also hope that through this, I can tackle the stigmas and stereotypes of people with chronic mental illness. 

I also work with clinical resources and brands to educate others on different ways to cope as well as raise awareness of the support that exists. 

You also create physical, mental health-themed artwork. What led you to take this approach, rather than remaining solely digital?

Managing my mental health meant that I had to go beyond just using art as a coping tool. I needed more tools throughout my day. And I wanted to find a way to create my own tools that were creative, bright, positive yet also supported me throughout the day. 

I evaluated what I was struggling with – such as communicating when I’m having a low day (I ended up creating a door hanger as a result, or falling asleep at night, I’m a light sleeper so I designed silk eye masks to make my sleep routine more exciting and allow me to avoid sleep disturbance due to light, and I designed my own solutions. Just like I started sharing my art, it was a solution to a personal problem. However, by sharing with others, I’ve found that I can use these solutions to help others! 

Sravya added: “For anyone who’s looking for resources to support them on their self-love and mindfulness journey, wherever they are in that journey, I just want to let them know that there is support out there, you can get help. I hope that other than clinical resources, people recognize that mental health resources can come in many forms – mentors, creators, friends. If you have a community, be a source of support and strength for your community.

“If anyone’s looking for free resources to get started, I’ve been designing tools throughout my journey with managing depression and anxiety that I wish existed. If they can help one other person, I’m happy to share them.”

Sravya’s practical tips from her first-hand perspective of openly sharing her experiences with mental health are great learning tools for both brands and influencers who want to actively discuss mental health, all year round.  

*Disclaimer from Sravya:⁠ I am an artist, not a mental health advocate or professional.⁠ The messages in my art are thoughts from my journal intended for myself. I am not trying to give advice or speak for others. I share my art in hopes that it may help someone else feel less alone. ⁠

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