I want to create a persuasive that will increase the rate of college students seeking treatment for mental health.
The goal of the campaign is to destigmatize, educate, encourage, and stimulate mental health aid for students on campus. The primary objective is to increase mental health service utilization by students. This can be measured on a quarterly basis via statistics from student counseling services as well as potential private providers if they are willing to share general data regarding the number of students utilizing these professional services and whether there is a percentage increase from previous years and quarter over quarter. Measures such as unique patients as well as repeated visits can be helpful.
Another secondary goal is to make mental health aid more accepted in the student community, so even though a student may not need aid at the time, they would be willing to consider it or recommend it to their friends at times of need. Something like this can be measured through a self-response survey measuring attitudes via scales. Overall, mental health is a complex topic, so stimulating mental health service utilization is a difficult topic. It is not a one or even two-step action. For most people, it is an in-depth evaluation and consideration of their behaviors and needs. Therefore, the approach has to be wholesome to include education about it, starting public discourse, and reducing stigma around the topic. The goal is for students to feel comfortable and actually utilize mental health services in situations where they feel something is wrong or unusual about their mental state.
The primary target audience is the students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as this is where the author of this campaign attends. The topic is also directly aimed at college-level students, so anyone attending any type of college (community, part-time, full-time) as well as more advanced education programs (master’s and Ph.D.) can benefit. The campaign is aimed at students in academic settings of all types. As a relatively large school, it is likely that there are students that fall into the statistics discussed above that suffer from a mental health condition and are reluctant or unsure how to receive psychiatric help. The level of emotional and mental disturbance plays an essential role as well. There are spikes in decreasing mental health rates among international students, those who are targeted by bullying, and those who are adjusting to college workloads (Bouchrika, 2020). While not all students are equally in the risk zone, the current situation with high-stress levels from COVID-19 and lockdowns puts everyone under pressure and makes professional counseling more essential than ever.
To answer the issues that were highlighted in my previous paper, I made several changes to some of its parts. First of all, I updated the statistics on mental health issues among college students that reveal prevalent factors and disorders (“2020 mental health in America – Youth data,” n.d.). Furthermore, I changed the data regarding the levels of mental health disturbance and also found more recent studies and research. This revision reflects the statistics that reveal that a low percentage of students with emotional disturbance are being adequately assigned to a proper support program. I have also changed the discussion of the relevance of mental health disturbance to highlight that some groups are placed under higher pressure that leads to an increased chance of developing a mental health issue.
Campaigns involve actions that are intended at broadening changes in policies, systems, communities, populations, and institutions. A campaign is an advocacy work aimed at influencing a specific group of people to adopt certain behavioral changes (Steg et al., 2017). Several theories have been advanced to determine whether campaign activities will create the intended changes. Examples of such theories include the theory of reasoned action, social cognitive theory, health belief model, and stages of change model.
Theory of Reasoned Action
According to this theory, the intention to perform a given behavior determines its performance. This means that the intention to raise funds to create awareness for student mental health is what determines if the funds will be raised and if attitudes and behaviors will change. The intentions are, nonetheless, determined by behavioral attitude and subjective norms of the behavior (Korin, 2016). Some people tend to be concerned about what people they consider more important than them think of them in their performance of the behavior (Jafari et al., 2021). Normative and behavioral beliefs influence subjective and attitudes norms. When used in campaign evaluation this theory helps in evaluating the efficacy of a campaign approach.
Social Cognitive Theory
This theory argues that self-efficacy and motivation are the essential elements required to change behavior. It defines self-efficacy as the belief that one possesses abilities and skills compulsory to perform a behavior under different conditions. Simply put, one has to believe that he can perform a given behavior under different circumstances (West R. & West J., 2019). The person also believes that incentives, whether negative or positive will help motivate him to action. This theory speaks to the fact that the campaign to create awareness for mental health conditions can be performed whether there are funds or not.
Stages of Change Model
According to this model, behavior change is a sequence of five main stages through which one must go through. It is important to first establish where people are on the behavior change continuum before developing interventions that will walk with them in each step. Nonetheless, it is not mandatory for this process to be linear as it allows people to recycle some of the stages. The needed intervention types should be different in each of the stages (Sharma, 2021). Indeed, this model has been used successfully in the campaign for tobacco-free children, making it a useful theory that can also be applied in this case.
Health Belief Model
This model has been extensively applied in the field of public health. It posits that the adoption of protective health behavior is influenced by two factors. These are a feeling that a given disease or condition personally threatens an individual and a belief that the adoption of a protective health behavior carries more benefits than the costs associated with it (Dutra et al., 2018). Mental health is a prevalent topic of discussion on modern day, and the topic will expose people to this model where they will have to weigh the outcomes (Curtin et al., 2017). Indeed, this public health campaign has been instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The campaign theories discussed above can all be used in mobilizing the public to take some particular actions aimed at adopting some positive behaviors.
The branding developed for this campaign will consists of the message “Mental Health Matters” and two arms wrapped around a heart as to represent a hug, with the full title of the program, “University of Nebraska-Lincoln Mental Health Awareness” (referred to as UNMHA) underneath. The slogan for this campaign is “You’re not alone in your mental health struggles.” Together these components relay the fundamental objectives for the campaign which is to spread awareness of mental health and drive students towards resources at the university. Mental Health Matters along with the program title seeks to outline that the barriers around mental health should be broken down and there is recognition and awareness regarding mental health on campus. The logo creates some level of sympathy and relatability to the topic, as well as inclusivity, it emphasizes that no one should feel left out. Finally, the slogan is purposefully written to be more personal, as if addressing the reader. It is letting them know that there is support for those experiencing mental health struggles, and serving as an indirect nudge, or call to action, to participate and improve mental health utilization.
Branding will be utilized strategically to spread awareness and gather support for the cause. It will be used in one form or another (ranging from stand-alone logo to full program name) across all forms of messaging and advertising conducted for this campaign. Branding is specifically important for quick-glance recognition from a marketing and awareness perspective. In other words, when someone sees the logo or slogan, they immediately know that an individual supports this cause, that is especially important for young people in such settings. If taking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, such marketing where branding becomes a symbol that everyone wants to represent, it fulfills the need for belonging. In a way, it avoids demonstrating potential cognitive dissonance, so if one supports the issue with wearing branded products, one is doing something positive. The most popular examples of mass branding such as this on college campuses are merchandise sales (t-shirts, hats, attire). This is a form of cause-related marketing which is highly beneficial for organizations seeking to popularize their products while improving perceptions of the brand (Carmicheal, 2021). For UNMHA, this approach to mass branding will be effective, via merchandise sales and social branding-oriented campaign messaging meant to drive recognizability and support.
The UNMHA as part of its campaign will utilize a three-pronged approach of in-person, digital, and video platform advertising. In-person is defined as the physical presence of individuals campaigning to other students in strategic times and locations. Digital in this case refers to online posts, a group/page created for the campaign on various social media platforms, status updates, information posted online, and potentially paid ads. Finally, video platform advertising refers specifically to short-form video on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Even though they are also social media, a specific dedicated approach is needed to target the visual presentations.
In-person messaging will occur by the campaign placing people with posters and informational stands throughout the university. These will be seen at student mass events or nearby high-traffic locations such as the library or dining halls. These stands will be simple, with posters having the organization’s logo and slogan, some posters will have basic mental health statistics and the address of the student counseling center. Volunteers working will try to engage students as the initial point of contact. This refers back to the Stages of Change model, as it is necessary to get a general perspective on where the student body is in terms of accepting mental health, seeking it themselves, and providing support for others. This can be done via sampling and short questionnaires, which will evaluate the opinions and attitudes of students towards mental health awareness programs such as UNMHA.
At the same time, this approach as a powerful messaging tool. The personal approach can help dissipate information about the campaign through campus through mouth-to-mouth sharing. Unlike the other forms of messaging, it is also interactive, with a possibility of discussion held with students. By stimulating discussion, there is a greater potential for identification and finding common ground in order to garner greater support. Such direct messaging may convince an individual to support the campaign in the ways they see fit and spread awareness, and based on the theory of reasoned action, a person’s intention to act is the best predictor if they will actually act on it.
The digital strategy will follow a typical path of attempting to gain awareness by attracting followers and support in the digital space. A profile for the campaign will be created on the popular social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Each page will be appropriately formatted with the campaign’s mission, purpose, logo, contact information, and association with the university. Then, specific efforts will be taken to gain followers by asking other student groups to share the information, as well as working with the university to be included in the mailing lists. It is estimated that between 1000 and 5000 unique followers on the major platforms is a realistic expectation.
Using the social media platforms, the campaign can reach a large number of individuals at once. It is important to remain active on social media in order to generate views, but not as to be overwhelming with content. The key is to effectively market core key messaging of the campaign. This will include posts about the impact of mental health, potential testimonies of people struggling and successfully receiving help, and ways to cope and seek help within the context of the university. The social media strategy should be pre-planned and focused, setting the appropriate objectives and using targeted communication channels and content to relay the messaging. One point to consider is that mental health is to this day a highly stigmatized topic which makes people uncomfortable. The goal of the campaign is to highlight the value of each individual as a human being that deserves to be heard and helped. It is important to break the glass ceilings and push back against stigmatization.
The campaign messaging wants to be an affective presence where people are comfortable, but at the same time, fighting against the cognitive dissonance surrounding mental health, where people may think good things, but act completely differently as if closed off from it. Using the Elaboration likelihood model, which is a dual process theory of persuasion, the social media posts from the campaign must appeal to both information-processing factors, the central processing route and the peripheral route. For example, by posting statistics, key information, quotes – logical arguments presented in support of advocacy, the central route is involved. However, the peripheral route results from association with cues in the stimulus, focusing more on the superficial quality, production quality, or credibility of the source. Therefore, messaging that is highly emotionally touching, visually appealing, and a well-developed poster or video are necessary alongside the ‘dry’ informational posts. After exposure to both, in combination the central processing route and the peripheral route can create a favorable perception of the message and likely to join in supporting the cause.
The video advertising format will focus on the short-form video that is currently popular with the modern youth generation. These clips are at most 3 minutes long, but the majority range in-between 1 and 2 minutes. They are effective as the format allows for a quick and easy consumption of content by the audience. The clip can take a small sub-topic of a larger theme such as mental health, and highlight in a variety of ways. The campaign can make a range of videos including informational ones, advocacy, emotionally appealing, and even humorous (as appropriate for the topic) usually through the use of either skits or a popular ‘trend’ where a dance to a certain song is used to present a piece of information. The platforms utilizing the short-form video formats with TikTok and Instagram being the most popular, have a significant number of trends and discussions regarding mental health awareness and utilization. The campaign will benefit from building on this popularity and gaining awareness not only within the university circles but outside viewers as well.
The short-form video advertising can be highly effective with the use of social cognitive theory. For example, a video can be a call to action to support a struggling friend or ask someone how they are feeling on a designated day. This provides the viewer with self-efficacy to realize that even a small action can lead to changes. Then the video transitions to a happy montage with the song How to Save a Life playing in the background, creating positive emotional appeal, that one’s action could truly save a life. The psychology of TikTok and other video platforms is unique, it allows for immersion and certain satisfaction and gratification. Montag et al. (2021) highlight that social-determination theory comes into play when people use TikTok, as it increases their motivated behavior allowing them to feel competence and being connected with others. The platform fulfills certain needs for younger generations, so it can be used in a similar manner to create motivation and drive action through the campaign associated content, emphasizing awareness and utilization of mental health services.
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Montag, C., Yang, H., & Elhai, J. D. (2021). On the Psychology of TikTok Use: A First Glimpse From Empirical Findings. Frontiers in Public Health, 9(641673). Web.
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West, R., & West, J. (2019). Energise: The secrets of motivation. Silverback Publishing.