SINGAPORE — During the run-up to International Men’s Day on November 19, creative agency BBH Singapore launched a campaign that aims to normalize the idea of seeking professional help for men facing mental health challenges in the country by breaking the stigma around it.
Launched in partnership with Calm Collective, an organization on a mission to break the stigma and to normalize mental health conversations in Asia, as well as Singapore-based award-winning film production house Freeflow Productions, the campaign is targeted at men who might be struggling with mental health issues along as well families and communities who might know of someone facing such challenges.
Using the tagline “Deal With It,” the campaign will be led by a film and supported by social media and PR activation. The creative idea was born out of the insight that outdated societal pressures in Singapore expect men to be “emotionally strong” forcing them to internalize their mental health struggles. As a result, men are reluctant to seek help because they’ve learned to deal with it.
The insight was derived from a survey (Pollfish) conducted by BBH Singapore that has confirmed that seven in 10 in Singapore believe that there is an expectation for men to be more emotionally resilient than women. The survey, which is aimed at understanding barriers around men seeking help for mental health issues, polled 1,000 respondents – 542 men and 458 women – between the ages 16 to 54 and above.
A key finding was that the top reason why men in Singapore will not seek help for their mental health is that they’ve “learned to deal with it” (53.2%). This attitude is most visible amongst the younger age group of 16-24 where 73.3% cite “learn to deal with it” as their reason for not wanting to seek help. This stands in stark contrast to the top reason why women in Singapore will not seek help for their mental health which is “getting help is too costly” (59.5%).
The creative idea of the campaign film revolves around questioning the effectiveness of self-talk and self-therapy. The film features a young man as he engages in conversation with his therapist behind the camera. But as the dialogue continues, we begin to realize the reality of his situation – that it was all just his self-talk.
Commenting on the campaign, BBH Singapore Group Creative Director Gaston Soto said: “There’s a lot of stigma around acknowledging mental health issues. Research shows that this habit of brushing off symptoms is even more evident in men who have been indoctrinated by a patriarchal society to deal with everything ‘like a man.’ This thought-provoking film aims to shed light on this issue, suggesting that the best way to ‘deal with it’ is by asking for help. And when better than International Men’s Day to talk about this? This project means a lot to me and I’m very thankful for our partnership with Calm Collective to make a little difference in Singapore society.”
Calm Collective Founder Sabrina Ooi added: “Calm Collective was founded in response to losing two dear male friends to suicide. This jolted us to break the stigma and to normalize mental health conversations in Asia, and amongst men. The survey findings were especially interesting for us, though not surprising. We are culturally and socially conditioned to place unrealistic expectations on men. For instance, men are told from a young age that “boys don’t cry” and being emotional only makes them look weak. They’re expected to appear strong, stoic, and “emotionally resilient”. But emotional resilience is not about repressing one’s emotions, but by embracing them fully and turning to support systems for help. This needs to stop – men need to stop questioning themselves and bottling up their challenges if they are struggling mentally, or else it will be too late.”
The campaign was launched across digital platforms on November 18.
Agency: BBH Singapore
Chief Creative Officer: Sascha Kuntze
Group Creative Director: Gaston Soto
Associate Creative Director: Adeline Siow
Associate Creative Director: Kenneth Foo
Art Director: Sixin Wu
Copywriter: Enkainia Lee
Business Director: Manavi Sharma
Senior Account Executive: Angel Fadila
Strategy Director: Amanda Lim
Senior Strategist: Felicia Ong
Strategist: Cheryl Koh
Junior Strategist: Maureen Alam
Junior Social Specialist: Kristal Lee
Production Partner: Freeflow Productions
Director: Roslee Yusof
Executive Producer: Jill Soong
Audio Production Partner: Fuse Adventures in Audio