How Brands Are Talking About Mental Health During COVID

May 13 2020

YPulse is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on young consumers and how brands can respond. We’ll be providing new data and insights for you weekly to cope with the crisis, including special reports, exclusive data on Coronavirus and the next generations, and actionable insights on what brands need to be doing now – and next.

You can access everything here on our young consumers and COVID-19 hub.

Mental health is more of a focus for Gen Z and Millennials than ever before—here’s how brands are talking to them about it…

Pre-pandemic, young people were already prioritizing their mental health: YPulse’s In Their Heads trend research found that 94% of 13-to-34-year-olds agree that taking care of mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Now, it’s likely become even more of a focus for them. Cautious and anxious are the two top emotions that Gen Z and Millennials are having about Coronavirus, with half of young consumers reporting they feel anxious about COVID-19. Our exclusive research also found that 41% of 13-39-year-olds say their mental health has been negatively impacted because of Coronavirus, and 39% say their mental health has been permanently changed by the pandemic. Young consumers are more open about these struggles than previous generations tended to be—with some creating their own events and communities focused on mental wellness. Just one example:  Hannah Lucas, a student from Georgia who learned to cope with her depression and chronic illness during this time, wanted to help other teens across the country by creating “We Are Well Prom 2020”—a virtual prom that took place on Instagram Live and featured mental health check-ins, wellness tips, and resources for all of the attendees. 

According to YPulse’s research on marketing during COVID-19, two in five young consumers appreciate brands providing ideas to improve mental health during this time. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as it coincides with the COVID crisis, it’s not a surprise that it’s perhaps more of a focus for brands than ever before. But young consumers’ desire for these resources—and openness about mental health struggles—is unlikely to subside. Instead, these examples of brands talking about mental health are setting the stage for a new norm: 

Mental Health-Focused Live Events & Series 

Live streaming events have become big since the start of quarantines. Our COVID special report on entertainment found that 30% of 13-39-year-olds are regularly live streaming content in their free time. According to Thewrap, Instagram has seen a 70% increase in the usage of the Live feature in the last month, a trend that isn’t. But brands aren’t just using live virtual events to entertain—some are using it as a way to bring mental health resources to young users. Netflix has launched celebrity chats on Instagram Live to address Gen Z’s pandemic woes. Wanna Talk About It? is a weekly live series on how young consumers can take care of themselves during the COVID crisis, addressing questions like “how do we manage anxiety?” and “what self-care actually means.” The show stars actors from some of the streaming platform’s most popular teen flicks, like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, asking mental health experts for tips on how to cope. They aren’t the only ones making mental wellness a focus on the platform. Backpack brand Jansport recently launched #LightenTheLoad—a campaign targeting Gen Z that provides them with resources as they face “unprecedented challenges” during COVID. The brand is partnering with mental health experts throughout May to host Instagram Live sessions centered on topics of isolation, compassion fatigue, uncertainty, and family. 

Social Media Awareness Campaigns

Mental health tools and campaigns have become a priority for social platforms trying to maintain trust with young users. When the pandemic began, Snapchat launched its new “Here For You” mental health tool earlier than intended to support users feeling anxious or stressed, with an added section dedicated to COVID-19 information from the Ad Council, the WHO, CDC, Crisis Text Line, NHS, and many other partners. This month, to commemorate Mental Health Awareness month, breakout social app TikTok launched a dedicated hashtag (which has received 857 million views so far) for users to share their stories, fight stigma, educate the community, and advocate for others. Tumblr, which has been having a moment thanks to young consumers who are turning to 2000s nostalgia for comfort, is partnering with anti-bullying charity organization Ditch the Label for their “Post it Forward” campaign. With the partnership, they’re creating content to support young people’s mental and emotional well-being during the global crisis. Users will be able to access resources and participate in discussions on four key topics of isolation: maintaining, protecting, and improving mental health, coping with grief, managing relationships, and combating boredom. Social platforms have a vested interest in being positive, safe spaces, and mental wellness will undoubtedly continue to be a part of their efforts to engage young users.

Meditation App Freebies

We predicted that meditation app Headspace would get big because of quarantines, and we weren’t wrong. After lockdowns began, popular health and wellness apps that existed before COVID started to ramp up their services and started offering them at discounted rates and even for free. In March, to address the rising levels of stress and burnout faced by frontline workers, Headspace announced it was offering its premium services (which usually runs for $12.99 a month) to all U.S. health care professionals for free the remainder of the year. The following month, the app opened up free access for its mindfulness exercises, meditations, and sleep experiences to everyone and even changed their landing page to be dedicated to New York, the hardest hit state in the U.S. They also launched #TakeTen—a new Instagram Live series featuring guided mini-meditation and mindful moments. Other health and mediation appslike Simple Habit, Sanvello, and Balance—are all offering free premium access as well. Calm curated a page full of resources that include mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, printable calendars, and talks on creativity from experts like Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert as well as bedtime stories from celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, to help users “meet this moment together.” All of their content can be accessed through a browser without having to download the app or sign up. According to Google search data, the number of searches around yoga and meditation apps increased 65% year over year. Use of these apps is clearly increasing as young consumers look for more resources to manage stress and anxiety, and by providing free resources at a difficult time, they could be earning even more future users.