Mental health treatments are prescribed more than ever before but currently only 50% of patients respond. Mental health research is needed to improve care but is greatly limited by access to volunteers.
To combat this, the NIHR Mental Health BioResource for Depression and Anxiety was set up to provide a database of contactable research volunteers. Traditional recruitment methods had only identified patients in the hundreds, as opposed to the thousands needed to advance scientific understanding.
Could a multi-media, integrated campaign, engaging with patients directly, change this?
- Execute a multi-channel mental health campaign (traditional media outreach, social media, digital marketing and stakeholder engagement) within the client (a not-for-profit) budget of £50,000
- Ensure communications reach a diversity of demographics (ages, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and socio-economic groups) to combat bias in genetic research
- Drive 40,000 visits to the study website to sign up and secure 20,000 valid participants by the end of core recruitment period (four weeks)
- Contribute to reducing mental health stigma by increasing visibility of real people talking openly about their mental health
Ahead of developing the media strategy, research was conducted with key stakeholders:
- Health media correspondent interviews revealed the opening phases of a study are generally not newsworthy; journalists tend not to cover research without short term outcomes or results. The name of this study was also not captivating or memorable. Additionally, some journalists were highly critical of genetic research and in the wake of GDPR, data protection was highly topical.
- A media audit demonstrated that case studies of real people with mental health conditions would be vital.
- However, briefing calls with advocacy organisations suggested that the majority of people with depression/anxiety would not wish to speak publicly about it due to stigma.
- Polling 50 people with depression and/or anxiety suggested that without any individual or immediate results it would be hard to motivate participants. However, helping future mental health sufferers was an altruistic motivator for many.
- The GLAD Study – renamed to the succinct and memorable ‘Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression’
- GLAD I took part – centered the focus on lived experience, instead of academics
- GLAD to be part of it - created a motivational, mental health community movement
The ‘NIHR Mental Health BioResource’ database wasn’t the most enticing title for patients and social media.
- The new name - the GLAD (Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression) Study was memorable, succinct, hashtag-able and optimistic
- #GLADStudy empowered people to talk about their own mental health openly and why they were inspired to sign up as part of an online movement
We connected the science to real people from diverse backgrounds who could share their altruistic motivators.
- A national search found people living with anxiety and depression (men and women, BAME, LGBT+, varied ages and socio-economic backgrounds) willing to speak to media
We identified and enlisted celebrities, influencers and advocacy groups to act as media spokespeople, mindful of representation.
- Eight high profile celebrities and social media influencers became ambassadors for the study, including Alexander Armstrong, Gabby Logan, Genesis Elijah and Alastair Campbell
- 11 mental health advocacy groups were brought on board with diverse audiences including post-natal depression, young men who feel suicidal, LGBT+ and ex-military communities
We reached a diverse demographic by engaging a wide range of media (newspapers, magazines, broadcast and medical).
- Gone are the days of depending on a standalone press release. With broad media in mind, we supplied a range of visual content: infographic, animation and B-roll footage
We reinforced the campaign through social media and digital marketing.
- Both sponsored and organic social media posts shared a range of engaging assets and stories as well as media coverage
- Google search campaigns were running concurrently, directing those who searched a selection of mental health keywords to the study website
- 250 items of media coverage created >1.35 billion opportunities to see; delivering cost per 1,000 people reached of 3p
- 43 interviews were secured with 25 different spokespeople including mental health advocates, patients and celebrity/influencer sufferers. The use of spokespeople from diverse demographics had a major positive effect in encouraging a breadth of individuals to sign up – helping to combat bias in genetic research
- At launch, the website was overwhelmed with >1 million visits
- 24,000 valid research participants were recruited
- Google Trends demonstrates the impact – during the campaign, searches for mental health were higher than at any other period in the past 24 months
- The NIHR Mental Health BioResource for Depression and Anxiety now holds one of the largest banks of research volunteers in the world
Video for GLAD I took part
- Marjorie Wallace, SANE (Mental health charity): “The study has the potential to help us better understand mental health and lead to better treatments. We were GLAD(!) to help with media interviews”
- Tom Clarke, ITN: “It’s quite unusual to cover a research study without results. This campaign had perfect balance of high science and real life. The people taking part are doing it for really altruistic reasons, wanting to change the future of mental health”
- Thalia Eley, King’s College London: “Four Health helped us achieve sign-ups to the study from all around the country in huge numbers and across a broad age-range and demographics – this was hugely important to us to combat bias in genetic research”