Hey, yesterday was World Mental Health Day! Yes, the 10th of October was World Mental Health Day and is a day for mental health education, advocacy and awareness. The ABC and its connected media channels had a week of mental health related programming, communicating mental health to the public.
The ABC hosted a week themed around mental health called ‘Mental As‘. There were mental health themed television shows, interviews, and specials culminating on Friday night with the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up‘. The ABC’s youth radio station, Triple J, also had mental health themes throughout their regular programming and in particular during their current affairs and news show, Hack.
According to 1010.org.au, there were 3 objectives of World Mental Health Day in Australia:
1. Encourage help seeking behaviour
2. Reduce the stigma associated with mental health
3. Foster connectivity through communities
Did the ABC’s programming strategies this week reflect the objectives of World Mental Health Day?
I would argue that yes, they did.
The 1st objective, to encourage help seeking behaviour, was achieved by including information about who to contact throughout programming and even during shows. Interviews were aired that showed people speaking about the benefits of seeking help and presenters would consistently ask people to contact someone if they felt they needed help.
The 2nd objective, to reduce stigma associated with mental health, was achieved by careful naming of programming and normalising talk about mental illness. The program schedule name ‘Mental As’ and the culmination, the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up‘ are play on words to do with mental illness. By claiming ownership of the names, the ABC allowed viewers to feel comfortable contributing to the conversation during the week without having to worry about being politically correct. Inadvertently, the message was; worry less about political correctness and more about being considerate in your speech. This ‘free pass’ issued by the ABC allowed people to feel comfortable contributing and helped generate conversation. The more people talk about something, the more normal it becomes which will help reduce stigma associated with it. The programs themselves also exposed viewers to mental health and brought it directly into their living rooms, further normalising it and reducing associated stigma.
The 3rd objective, foster connectivity through communities was best seen through the use of social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were used to generate conversations around Australia and connect communities around mental health awareness. The final show, the ‘Friday Night Crack-Up’ was a live show that featured pre-filmed bits showing hosts speaking to people on the street about mental health issues. This is another way connectivity was fostered in the community.
Overall, I feel the ABC’s Mental As week was successful in addressing the 3 objectives of World Mental Health Day. If you missed it, or would like to re-watch any programs, there is a dedicated page on the ABC’s catch-up website, iView, where you can watch or re-watch programs.