Before the pandemic, the United States was in the grip of a mental health crisis of unprecedented levels. In 2019, 50 million people in the US experienced mental illness, which is nearly 20 percent of the population. Suicidal ideation had just experienced its most significant yearly increase.
Experts say that the last two years of COVID-19 trauma have only made this worse. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), not only has the pandemic increased the need for mental health services, it has disrupted treatment at the same time. This leaves those in need in worse shape than before, with fewer options available.
Fortunately, studies have shown that many mental health issues can be successfully addressed via “hybrid” measures, which combine face-to-face treatment with online interaction. While this is good news, not all demographics receive the same kind of marketing attention for online mental health campaigns.
When it comes to the mental health fallout of COVID-19, meeting the needs of diverse and multicultural audiences, and drawing them into necessary care, is a matter of utmost importance. Black and Hispanic populations already faced a significant gap in terms of access to mental health care before the pandemic.
Mental Health Often Lacks Cultural Context
While access to mental health care can often be challenging for all consumers, Hispanic, Black, Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI), and other multicultural audiences face even more obstacles and barriers to getting proper treatment when they need it.
According to Simmons University, these obstacles include but are not limited to racism and discrimination, higher vulnerability to being uninsured, and language and communication barriers. They also highlight the mistrust of systems and organizations, stigma within the community, and last but not least, different cultural perceptions about mental health and well-being.
A 2018 study published in Frontiers of Mental Health highlights that multicultural patients often receive treatments from mental health providers and professionals from different backgrounds than their own.
Cultural differences are often even harder to bridge than the simple language barrier, as nuances of value and perspective are not easily understood by people that do not have the same background or lived experiences.
While increasing the diversity of the mental health landscape is one way to address this issue, including multicultural perspectives and faces in our mental health marketing campaigns is perhaps even more effective and can be implemented right now.
Launching An Effective And Multicultural Mental Health Campaign
COVID-19 has shown us clearly that the disparities in access to healthcare, including mental health, particularly for Black and Hispanic patients, is a deadly form of social injustice. The good news is that recent years have brought an increased focus on marketing and including mental health care services to more diverse populations.
Multicultural mental health campaigns can create positive changes by including those who need it in more than just symbolic ways. There is a need to extend mental health into social realms where it is lacking and move away from a particular culturally dominant view into a more multifaceted one. It should include proper perspectives and insight from these very cultures in the campaign.
For instance, marketers can directly address overlooked demographics, including immigrants and refugees, who face financial and social barriers that prevent them from accessing much-needed services. Incorporate spiritual messages and imagery from different cultures to connect authentically with your audience. Develop creative that is available in multiple languages and address taboos and stigmas around mental health directly.
Investing in diverse communities allows the healthcare system to connect with a whole market share that often remains untapped and needs attention. This is especially true in the post-pandemic period, which has increased the demand for mental health services. Now, the inequalities within the system are even more visible. This is our chance to change that injustice.