5 most inspiring and insightful mental health campaigns from the past two years

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Among other things, the pandemic crisis was a chance to re-ignite the conversation around mental health and rejuvenate the narrative with some much beloved (albeit often understated) themes. The past two years have seen a huge range of brilliant campaigns in the realm of mental health – so is it a surprise that some of them won big in our Annual 2021 awards?

From a campaign on natural beauty by Dove to celebrating the unspoken strength of women, there are plenty of inspirational works from all over the industry to break the stigma around mental health. And because talking about mental health is a reason to drive positive change in the world, diversity, equality and inclusion all make a strong appearance in most of the works below.

We have collected the best 5 most inspiring campaigns on mental health below – with one little Christmas bonus at the end.

Reverse Selfie - Absolute Post for Dove

The moment this campaign entered our radar, we knew it would be an award winner. The submission by Absolute Post this year did not disappoint; Reverse Selfie aims to raise awareness of the many insecurities young women face in an age of socials, with excellent production value and a strong message to wrap it up.

Reverse Selfie is one of those things which you must see if you’re looking to fully appreciate it. When you get goosebumps watching an ad, you know it was a good one.

#WhatsYourName - Iris for Starbucks

Everyone is and should feel welcome at Starbucks. The brand has recently started repositioning itself and its coffee shops as a safe place where inclusivity and diversity are celebrated every day, and this powerful campaign by Iris brings that narrative forward brilliantly. 

#WhatsYourName tells the story of James, who is transitioning and does not identify with his birth name, Jemma. Throughout the course of the ad, James is constantly reminded of his former gender identity and struggles to find acceptance from society, until he steps into a Starbucks shop. That’s where he tries out his chosen name for the first time, having it written on a coffee cup. This beautiful campaign celebrates identity, freedom and acceptance, and it was awarded a Bronze and a Silver in The Annual 2021.

Locked Down and Out - The Gate London for the LGBT Foundation

I’ve listed this campaign in a number of other Inspiration lists before, so you may have seen it on these pages in the past. The thing is that it never gets old. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we all realised that being stuck at home wasn’t going to be stellar for everybody; victims of abuse would be stuck at home with their perpetrators, and LGBT-phobic family members making life much more difficult for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Locked Down and Out was created by The Gate London for the LGBT Foundation, to raise awareness of the challenges that many in the LGBTQIA+ community have had to go through during the course of the pandemic. The film follows the experience of a young trans girl who is caught wearing makeup by her intolerant mother, and urges members of the LGBTQIA+ community to get in touch with relevant helplines to find support and help in a much needed time.

Sinking Feeling - Blue Zoo Animation Studio for Papyrus UK

There are many things we love about Blue Zoo Animation Studio, but if we had to pick one, it would be their #BZShorts programme. Some incredibly beautiful pearls have come out of that team-wide initiative, and Sinking Feeling is without a doubt one of their best.

As more vulnerable people felt left out during the course of the pandemic, the mission of charity Papyrus UK to prevent youth suicide is now more relevant than ever. The animation studio endeavoured to help the charity amplify their message, and after a studio-wide call for pitches, the Sinking Feeling film was assigned to Mark Spokes – while over 60 artists volunteered to help on the project. Touching, powerful, and well worthy of a Gold award in The Annual 2021, the film is one of the best works we’ve seen in the past two years – so grab a pack of tissues, sit tight, and watch it below.

#Wombstories - Chelsea Pictures & AMV BBDO for Libresse

What’s there to say about our first ever Grand Prix winner? #Wombstories is a masterpiece. Blending masterfully animation and live action, with different styles and several storylines all threaded into one powerful narrative, the ad by Libresse is a masterwork of animation and production, a powerful force to highlight the unspoken strength of women worldwide.

A number of top-class agencies chipped in to work on this campaign, leading to one of the most impressive, powerful and compelling works in the history of advertising. We have no doubt that #Wombstories will be remembered for years to come – a celebration of women, a true testimony to the power of creativity and the strength of human empathy.

Bonus: The Show Must Go On - Lucky Generals for Amazon

Covid-19 put the entire world on pause. Ambitions, dreams, business deals, a lot was just halted for a good few months until we all learned to forge ahead in the new normal. Amazon hit the right spot last Christmas with a powerful ad to celebrate the relentlessness of mankind and our capability to always look ahead, no matter what.

While not strictly one of the strongest mental health campaigns on this list, The Show Must Go On by Lucky Generals is still a top-quality ad and one can’t deny its great production value. It follows the story of a ballet dancer as she sees all her most beloved activities cancelled over night. How do you cope when the entire world is looking the other way? This spot provides an interesting answer, one we hope to see followed up in a lot of Christmas ads this year.