Can royalty help destigmatize mental illness?

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have joined Prince Harry in an awareness campaign using social media and the London marathon.

Members of the royal family are using their celebrity to change the conversation about emotional trauma and mental illness by discussing their personal grief.

The BBC reported:

William, Duke of Cambridge, told the BBC that he had to “learn to deal with” the loss of a parent.

“The shock is the biggest thing [which] I still feel 20 years later, about my mother,” William said.

“You never get over it, it’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you. You just learn to deal with it.”

The royals’ campaign #OkToSay is part of the family’s Heads Together organization, which is the culmination of their multifaceted work around mental illness in the UK, from addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder. The campaign features videos of celebrities and everyday citizens having person-to-person conversations about trauma and mental illness in their lives.

The duke and duchess shared a picnic table with Prince Harry to talk about their work and personal history.

The video is lengthy for an internet sensation, clocking in at a little under seven minutes, but the conversational tone suggests a tête-a-tête with a close friend. The style is replicated throughout the video series. Some focused on the secret pain of new parents:

Other videos focused on grief surrounding death and loss:

Prince William also reached across the pond to U.S. music icon Lady Gaga. Citing inspiration from her open letter about suffering from PTSD, the prince and the pop star shared a frank conversation about mental illness and the shame that often comes with it.

Corporate sponsors of the campaign have also tweeted content. Unilever shared this video in the style of the campaign about the mental health of parents.

The #oktosay campaign centered on the London Marathon with a BBC documentary following a group of 10 marathoners with a history of mental illness. Heads Together also released a headband for runners to wear to show their support. The blue fashion item went on to have a life of its own on social media.

It inspired an emoji:

It also became a Snapchat filter:

Even physical landmarks changed their style:

The campaign also asked members of the public to tweet photos of their support system and recognize the people who help them cope with difficult times.

The awareness campaign provided a platform for advocates to share resources with a wide audience. Heads Together tweeted a large directory of support groups and crisis centers.

Communicators, how are you talking about mental illness in your communities? Could local leaders or other public figures be spokespeople for your campaign?

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