Zombie problems? New mental health campaign targets young men

A new campaign aims to humorously engage young men in practical ways to overcome everyday stressors, with a little help from zombies.

The statistics on young men’s mental health are shocking. Around 40% of young men aged 15 to 17 have some level of emotional distress; one in five feel that life is not worth living; and young men in this age group are more than four times more likely to take their own lives.

The ‘Something Haunting You?’ campaign encourages young men aged 15 to 17 to take action and overcome the problem ‘zombies’ following them, such as exam stress, peer pressure, and body image doubts.

The campaign was designed in partnership with young men, who highlighted the importance of using humour and interesting abstract concepts to encourage them to tackle these very real problems.

Due to a number of pressures—including stigma, denial, and gender stereotypes—young men are often reluctant to seek help. Encouraging behaviours such as exercise, help-seeking, and setting challenges, can enable this group to learn valuable skills early on to lessen the risk of developing a mental illness and the need for more involved treatment down the track.

Young and Well CRC CEO, Associate Professor Jane Burns, welcomed the campaign as an innovative and targeted way to speak to a specific, notoriously hard-to-reach group.

“Our research has shown us the extent of the emotional distress of our young men, and that despite significant work in stigma reduction, we are still not seeing an increase in help-seeking. Our research and development looks at innovative ways to engage with young people, putting them at the centre of designing campaign concepts that resonate with that audience.”

Young and Well CRC Youth Brains Trust member Aidan Barry, 18, was a co-collaborator of the campaign and feels that it fills a gap for young men his age.

“This campaign is great, and really important. When young men are stressed they usually hide it and say that everything is ok, so something targeted to them has been needed for a long time. The website has been designed by other young people, so it is relevant to what young boys go through and gives good, practical advice.”

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said adolescence and young adulthood was a high-risk period for onset of mental illness.

“Campaigns like ‘Something Haunting You’ are important for reaching young men at a critical time in their lives and encouraging behaviour that will increase their mental wellbeing so they can work more productively and creatively and build positive and respectful relationships with others. This campaign uses humour in a way that will really resonate with young men and help them manage stress before it turns into a monster.”

‘Something Haunting You?’ is the third in a series of campaigns from Young and Well CRC’s Safe and Well Online project. It builds on the success of Appreciate A Mate – which promoted positivity online, and the 2012 campaign, Keep it Tame – promoting respect online. Dr Barbara Spears from the University of South Australia, who leads the research for the project, explained that the five-year study will give insight into how young people perceive key issues related to their safety and wellbeing, how they interact with digital campaigns and how effective they are in influencing or changing attitudes and behaviour.

The project is an initiative of Young and Well CRC and is led by the University of South Australia in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney, Zuni and the Queensland University of Technology.

Check out the campaign: www.somethinghauntingyou.com

13/07/2016 to 15/07/2016
Student Well-Being and Prevention of Violence Research Centre Conference
24/07/2016 to 27/07/2016
National Suicide Prevention Conference
28/07/2016 to 29/07/2016
SYHPANZ Conference – Absolutely Positively Youth Health
10/08/2016 to 12/08/2016
17th International Mental Health Conference
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