The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 43.8 million adults struggle with mental illness each year. That’s one in five Americans. And research shows that the COVID-19 outbreak could be making matters worse for many individuals. IZEA surveyed 1,061 internet users in the United States, all of whom were confined to their homes due to lockdown measures. Of those surveyed, 32% said their mental health had declined as a result of the outbreak.
These findings may not be too surprising. Many people are fearful of the virus itself, worried that they or someone they love may become infected.
The public is also experiencing higher stress levels due to the many ways in which the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted life. The unemployment rate is high. Children and teens are at home after schools closed. Young adults face uncertainty about college classes. Social outings like music festivals, movies, and drinks with friends are limited or discouraged.
Despite all of this, IZEA finds that one group of people is reporting improvement in their mental health: social media influencers. About 40% of influencers say their mental health has improved during the lockdown, versus 19% who report a decline in mental health. It’s important for influencers to spread that sense of optimism. Brands and marketers can also work alongside influencers to raise mental health awareness online.
Take a look at some ways you can partner with social media influencers to address your audience’s mental wellness. These strategies focus on helping your audience feel more connected, find creative outlets, and stay informed.
As social distancing becomes one of the main tactics for overcoming the spread of COVID-19, people may be feeling more lonely and isolated than ever. Even in a world not gripped by a pandemic, loneliness can increase stress, interfere with sleep cycles, and increase anxiety and depression.
Fostering a sense of connectivity (even if it’s limited to an online space) might help people feel less alienated. Influencers can use their vlogs or blogs to share their quarantine stories and lead candid discussions about mental health struggles.
Some individuals, including Claire Eastham, author of “We’re All Mad Here,” and Natasha Tracy, author of “Lost Marbles,” are famous for sharing their mental health stories. However, influencers who fit within any niche can choose to speak up and get personal with their followers. As a marketer, you and your influencer partners shouldn’t shy away from these topics, especially at a time when audiences are under stress.
Connecting doesn’t necessarily have to involve deep, emotional conversations. Brands can open up a dialogue with their followers on any relevant subject. A bookstore could host a virtual discussion group to talk about quarantine reads. A fashion boutique could start an Instagram hashtag for followers to show off their quarantine outfits.
Influencers can guide the online conversation, calling attention to creative posts, and sharing their own content. The goal is simply to create or maintain an online community around a brand, keeping one another company during this global crisis.
Raise Awareness Through Art
People who have lost their jobs or students who are out of school may struggle with finding a sense of purpose. Art can fill that void, helping the artist process emotions and even raise awareness about mental health on social media. Consider partnering with influencers who understand the benefits of art. The influencers might even be able to encourage followers to join in on the creative process.
Hannah Daisy (@makedaisychains on Instagram), Kate Allan (@thelatestkate), and Beth Evans (@bethdrawsthings) are examples of individuals who use their visual art to address mental health. Their artwork is often cute and colorful, and the captions are supportive and relatable. P. Bodi is another artist on Instagram who focuses on the same subject, but her work takes the form of poetry. Her account (@p.bodii) features hundreds of short yet encouraging written works, accompanied by minimalistic drawings of flowers.
Illustrating and writing are ways to draw attention to mental health issues, but a brand can collaborate with any creative talent who aligns with its niche. Other creative activities that influencers can encourage include sewing, knitting, woodworking, baking, and photography. A campaign filled with DIY ideas will help consumers who are confined to their homes pass the time with relaxing hobbies.
Keep in mind that many of your followers might be worried about finances and maybe trying to limit their spending. Ensure DIY projects are accessible to anyone who’s stuck at home and working with a limited budget. If your brand sells products needed to complete the project, make sure the audience is aware of any discounts. Followers will likely also appreciate free printable resources, such as sewing patterns and other templates.
Some individuals, especially men, are hesitant to talk about mental illness. This not only allows a stigma to go unchallenged, but it also makes it harder for people to find practical ways to cope with problems.
Brands and influencers can play an active role in dispelling misconceptions and erasing stigmas associated with mental illness. Turn to mental health experts to find statistics and suggestions that might be valuable to your audience. Look for certified psychiatrists like Daniel G. Amen, M.D., on Twitter and Jessica Clemons, M.D., on Instagram. Social media accounts run by organizations like the American Psychological Association may also have content for you to reference.
Influencers who can take that information and turn it into infographics or incorporate it into videos or blog posts can be useful during a campaign. If an influencer or brand has a podcast, they can invite mental health experts onto the show to speak for themselves. Because the information in the content is backed by credible sources, anyone can feel comfortable sharing it on social media without fear of spreading misinformation.
Informative resources don’t necessarily have to stay in the realm of mental health. Many schools are temporarily closed, and parents are looking for educational ways to keep kids busy. Influencers who share kid-friendly content can help alleviate some of the stress that parents are under. Blogs like School and the City by Kristin Yann and YouTube channels like CrashCourse by John and Hank Green are examples of educational resources. Also consider working with influencers who excel at DIY arts and crafts tutorials, such as Jean Van’t Hul of the YouTube channel The Artful Parent.
Serving Your Audience
Although the situation is tough, marketers can develop campaigns that comfort and inform consumers while also fostering brand loyalty. Collaborate with influencers who can create content that aligns with your niche and raises mental health awareness. Keep your ears open for audience feedback, and you’ll likely discover even more ways to better serve your followers through this crisis and future developments.