Depression as Marketing – Influencers and Mental Health – 71Bait

Influencers and celebrities speaking about mental health online are important, but can become problematic when used as a marketing tool.

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Open conversations about mental health are still important — and social media influencers can play a key role in starting them.

However, sometimes the line between awareness raising and marketing becomes blurred.

“When you’re depressed, everything can often seem black and white. Color is much prettier now… But how do you add color to your miserable thoughts?” German influencer Cathy Hummels has now captioned deleted pictures of her with sparkling sunglasses on Instagram.

“One factor that can help is light. Sun. let us shine ‘Sun ‘n’ Soul Retreat’ by @eventsbych,” Hummels said in the post shared earlier this month.

The post was linked to another Hummels account called Events by CH – where the “Sun ‘n’ Soul Retreat” was promoted with videos showing a group of influencers doing sunrise yoga, Pilates by the pool and painting on a Greek beach while staying at home making a luxury villa and posting promotional content everywhere.

Posts with quotes such as “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you” preceded content from the trip, interspersed with others highlighting advertising partners.

These included nightwear, beauty and hair, tea and jewelry brands, and a chain of bookstores, all of which were frequently tagged in content during the trip.

Their logos also served as the backdrop for a video in which the trip participants stood one by one in front of the camera and made gestures such as hugging themselves, pretending to drink from a bottle or covering their heads with their hands. Depending on the person and gesture in the video, a corresponding lettering appears.

“I suffered from anxiety”, “I suffered from alcohol addiction”, “I suffered from mental health” were some examples. In the end, everyone is in the shot together. “STOP IT! Love yourself,” the text reads.

Outrage from supporters and mental health organizations

The trip caused outrage among Instagram users and beyond. The German mental health charity Deutsche Depressionsliga, which is run by and for people living with depression, released a statement in response entitled “Depression is not a marketing tool”.

“It becomes difficult when some social media accounts and bloggers’ appearances give the impression that depression only occurs for a short time and can be magically removed, for example, by the rays of the sun,” says the aid organization.

“It becomes very tricky when it is clearly used as an advertising medium for promotion [own] Products. In this case, so-called ‘influencers’ walk a fine and dangerous line,” she added.

Hummels management did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. She shared an apology via Instagram on November 13.

Hummels said she experienced depression as a teenager and has tried to raise awareness and show that mental health issues can affect anyone, including celebrities.

“In retrospect, it is clear to me that I did not always succeed in my communication. If people, especially those with depression or other mental illnesses, have felt disrespected or hurt by me, I apologize and apologize,” she wrote.

Content from the retreat, including a video clip of Hummels sitting on a rock in an evening dress with “#strongmindstrongbody” and “#strongbodystrongmind” in the caption, can still be viewed on her Instagram account.

“A Duty of Care”

Simon Gunning, CEO of UK charity Campaign Against Living Miserably, said that when it comes to online conversations about mental health, acting responsibly matters most.

“The internet is rife with pseudoscience, and while there’s a segment of people whose livelihood depends on a relentless set of metrics — followers and likes, engagement and reach — we should all be bound by a duty of care,” Gunning told Make It on CNBC.

The World Health Organization estimated last year, citing data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, that around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

The UN health agency says depression is distinct from typical mood swings and short-lived emotional responses to everyday challenges. In fact, it can develop into a serious health condition “particularly when it recurs and with moderate or severe intensity” and people can suffer greatly from it.

The WHO says that depression, at its worst, can lead to suicide. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people die from suicide each year, with suicide being the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds.

Productive conversations about mental health

Gunning said that speaking openly about issues like mental health is a priority.

“Celebrities and influencers play an important role in raising awareness and opening up the conversation about mental health and suicide,” he said.

That sentiment is shared by the German Depression League, which in its statement notes that these talks often help raise awareness.

When these issues are raised online, the charity says it has a few things to consider.

“Don’t portray this life-threatening disease as something casual and light or a passing mood! Please choose your words carefully!” said the German Depression League. It added that people should always provide ways for people with depression to get help, explaining that the illness often requires therapy.

according to dr David Crepaz-Keay of the UK-based Mental Health Foundation also believes it is important to ensure content is evidence-based.

“As someone who is initiating or facilitating these conversations, it’s really helpful to focus on things that have a base of evidence, sharing testimonials and additional resources with people from trusted sources,” he told CNBC’s Make It.

This could include research from medical professionals or official health organizations, he says.

As a consumer, it’s just as important to ensure that the information you see online comes from a reliable source, explains Crepaz-Keay.

“Take these things seriously and slowly, and most importantly, double-check before you act on anything that looks like clinical advice from more than one source,” he said, adding that it’s important to do this with people check who you trust.

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