In an era where the discussion of mental health is emerging from its historically taboo state and entering mainstream conversations, brands have become influential players in this transformation. Thankfully, the significance of mental well-being has been magnified in recent years, as the world has been grappling with unprecedented challenges, putting considerable strain on the collective psyche as well as many individuals previously ‘unaffected.’ In this context, brands, previously seen as mere providers of goods and services, are now being recognized as potential leaders in advocating for societal causes, including mental health.
Dr. Paul Daidone, Medical Director at True Self Recovery, shares his perspective on this evolving landscape. “The silent epidemic of mental health is no longer silent! The monumental societal shifts we are witnessing, in part driven by brands’ advocacy, are propelling us towards a future where mental well-being is just as prevalent a topic of wellbeing as physical fitness.”
Brands that make an impact
Several brands stand out for their innovative approaches and significant contributions to mental health awareness; these initiatives range from philanthropy to incorporating mental well-being into their core values and operations.
Kim Homan, LMFT, Clinical Director at Tennessee Behavioral Health, emphasizes the ripple effect of such initiatives, “When influential brands champion mental health, it creates a multiplier effect. Their reach can educate and inspire action across communities more effectively than traditional campaigns.”
1. Lush Cosmetics
One brand at the forefront is Lush Cosmetics, which utilizes its global presence to shed light on mental health. Through its ‘Charity Pot’ program, Lush goes beyond philanthropy by using its platform to raise awareness and take action for mental health causes. They donate 100% of the price (excluding taxes) of their Charity Pot lotion to small grassroots organizations working in environmental conservation, animal welfare, human rights—including mental health initiatives.
Lush Cosmetics is clearly a company that wants to make mental health more known; not only does this bring attention to a major societal problem, it also lines up with their goal of promoting Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DE&I).
2. The Mayfair Group
Established in 2017 by Sam Abrahart, The Mayfair Group is a fashion brand that has captivated the public with its vibrant and trendy styles. Based on Abrahart’s own personal mental health journey, the brand strives to create a safe digital space and use clothes as a catalyst for meaningful conversations and change.The Mayfair Group is known for their signature crewneck sweaters with colorful letters spelling out “Empathy.” They aim to spread positivity and encourage talks surrounding mental health.
Taking their dedication to mental health advocacy even further, The Mayfair Group has partnered with MyWellBeing. This company is on a mission to make mental health accessible and easy to understand. They connect people with therapists and coaches that fit their needs, while at the same time working to end the stigma surrounding seeking help for your mind. They don’t just stop there though; in order to amplify their impact in the field of mental health, they partner up with organizations like Active Minds, Mental Health Coalition, Indigenous Women Rising, and Color of Change.
Ian Jackson, LPC at Recovery Unplugged, comments on this trend: “We are witnessing an encouraging shift in which brands are no longer passive bystanders, but active participants in shaping the narrative around mental health. This promising direction speaks volumes about our society’s values.”
3. Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole is a titan in the fashion industry, as well as a big advocate for mental health; the man has played a major role in creating and establishing the Mental Health Coalition which seeks to improve the wellbeing of everyone’s mind. This project involved brands, organizations, and individuals all working together to destigmatize mental health conditions; it’s meant to promote a culture where seeking help isn’t seen as weak, but instead as an act of bravery.
4. Kate Spade
Famous for its vibrant and elegant designs, Kate Spade has long been a brand that aims to empower women. Tragically, in 2018, the founder of the brand, Kate Spade herself, took her own life after fighting with depression. To honor her memory and carry on her work, the brand has been working on mental health awareness for young women. The company has even collaborated with Hollywood actress Taraji P. Henson on this effort, and partnered with organizations such as the Crisis Text Line and Born This Way Foundation.
The brand’s commitment is further emphasized by providing crisis support resources on its website and pledging millions towards global women’s empowerment and mental health resources. Through these efforts, Kate Spade continues to honor its founder’s legacy by placing mental health at the forefront of its social advocacy.
5. Happiness Project
Founded in 2017 by Jake Lavin, Happiness Project is a clothing brand born out of personal tragedy after one of Jake’s high school classmates succumbed to mental illness. With a mission to “elevate happiness throughout the world while supporting those impacted by mental health issues,” the brand features apparel adorned with uplifting messages like “mental health matters” and “if you’re reading this, you are loved.”
Happiness Project’s commitment extends beyond words as the brand has donated over 0k to mental health organizations, including NAMI, The AFSP, and the Canadian Mental Health Association. Notably, 15% of all profits are dedicated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), an organization founded in 1987 that unites those affected by suicide through research, education, and advocacy.
Photo by Kevin Malik
Assessing the impact of brand-led mental health initiatives poses complex challenges. Tangibly, brands have raised millions for research and support services. However, measuring intangible aspects, such as cultural and societal shifts in attitudes toward mental health, is less straightforward. Still, surveys and studies have shown gradual improvements in public perception, although critics argue that the depth of impact can vary significantly depending on the authenticity and longevity of brand campaigns.
The future of mental health advocacy
Michelle English, LCSW at Healthy Life Recovery, has summarized the feelings of many people: “It’s been transformative to see brands become advocates for mental health awareness; with their support, we are starting to make even more progress.”
A future vision
There’s a lot of potential when it comes to how brands get involved with mental health advocacy; an interesting one is using things like virtual reality and augmented reality. These technologies have always been about immersion, so why not use them to help people understand what it’s like living with a mental illness? AI is another field that could offer exciting possibilities, with solutions like chatbots and virtual therapists available to provide additional support avenues.
The potential ways brand involvement in mental health awareness is almost endless. Dr Alejandro Alva, Psychiatrist and Medical Director at the Mental Health Center of San Diego describes his vision as “an era of technology-enhanced empathy; to harness VR and AR technologies to create empathetic experiences that bridge the gap between us and those who suffer from mental disorders is an exciting possibility.”
Brands joining in on the conversation around mental health awareness represents a shift in culture surrounding this issue. Their power allows them to create societal norms; norms that can then influence positive behavior changes and support for mental well-being. In order for these initiatives to be authentic, informed, and ethically grounded moving forward, it’s going to take more effort from brands, consumers, and professionals working in the field of mental health.