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The Power of Public Relations - Illuminating the Path to Mental Health Awareness

In a world that is constantly bustling with activity, where every day brings new challenges and opportunities, the importance of mental health often takes a backseat. Despite the growing awareness surrounding the topic, the negative PR of mental health has, for the longest time, overshadowed the need for proper education, prevention, and care. As leaders in public relations, it's our responsibility to change this narrative and illuminate the path to mental health awareness.

The Harsh Reality

The World Health Organization's (WHO) revelation that one in four individuals will experience mental health issues in their lifetime is a sobering fact that cannot be ignored. Current predictions also indicate that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally. So many statistics on mental health reflect a global crisis, and we can no longer afford to downplay or stigmatise mental health. It's time to recognise that mental health is a fundamental aspect of our overall well-being.

My Journey Towards Awareness

From 2015 to 2019, I had the privilege of collaborating with Africa's premier life coach, Dr. Lanre Olusola and Novo Health Africa, a renowned HMO in Nigeria, for their annual World Mental Health Day conference held in leading cities in Nigeria. This experience served as a turning point in my understanding of the dire need for mental health education and awareness, especially in Nigeria and across the African continent. It became evident that there was a significant gap in knowledge and an abundance of negative perceptions surrounding mental health globally. Sadly, this has not improved as much as we'd like to believe or see.

One of our most prevalent misconceptions is that mental health challenges are insurmountable, akin to a life sentence. We must confront this misconception head-on. Mental health, like physical health, operates on a spectrum. Conditions range from everyday anxieties to debilitating depression and beyond. Just as someone can recover from a physical ailment, individuals can heal from mental health challenges and go on to lead fulfilling lives.

No Health Without Mental Health

The time has come to recognise that there is no health without mental health. Our mental well-being is intricately linked to our physical health and ability to thrive in today's world. We ought not to treat Mental health issues differently from physical ailments. Just as we wouldn't discriminate against someone requiring heart surgery, we shouldn't stigmatise those seeking help for their mental health.

Our commitment to mental health should extend beyond the annual observance of World Mental Health Day on October 10th. It should be a continuous dedication to fostering supportive workplaces where employees feel safe and encouraged to discuss their mental health

challenges openly. This means creating an environment where individuals can comfortably share their struggles or request necessary breaks without fear of judgment or reprisal.

While concerns about potential misuse or abuse of these accommodations are valid, organisational leaders are responsible for establishing safe spaces where such matters are minimised. Building a culture of trust and transparency is essential, where employees do not feel compelled to fabricate excuses to seek assistance.

In these nurturing workplaces, individuals will be empowered to prioritise their mental well-being, knowing their needs will be taken seriously. By promoting open dialogue and understanding, organisations can not only support their employees' mental health but also enhance overall productivity and well-being. This way, World Mental Health Day serves as a reminder not just to recognise mental health but to actively foster it in our workplaces, especially in the fast-paced world of communications where every day seems like breaking news.

The Role of Public Relations

With public relations, we have the tools and the responsibility to transform the narrative surrounding mental health. All over the globe, we all witnessed the transformative power of PR during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was through strategic communication and public relations efforts that we convinced the public to embrace vital health measures and vaccinations. We can leverage these same techniques to shift perceptions and understanding of mental health.

World Mental Health Day is a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility to confront the mental health crisis head-on. As PR professionals, we have the unique opportunity to reshape the dialogue, break down stigmas, and foster a culture of empathy and understanding.

Mental health challenges are not death sentences, and recovery is not only possible but achievable. It's time for a new PR strategy – one that prioritises mental health as a fundamental component of our well-being. Together, through education, advocacy and collaboration with the relevant partners and authorities, we can illuminate the path to mental health awareness and usher in a brighter, healthier future for all.


Omawumi Ogbe is the managing partner at GLG Communications, a leading PR and reputation management firm. A candidate in Europe’s #1 Executive MBA program at HEC Paris, Omawumi holds a postgraduate degree in Media and Communication from Pan-Atlantic University, where she graduated as the overall best-graduating student. A TEDx speaker and experienced trainer, Omawumi’s leadership skills have led her team to win several awards, including "Best Innovation in PR '' at the 2022 LaPRIGA Awards. Also a certified coach, she is the first female president of the Life Coaches Association of Nigeria (LCAN) and is the recipient of the 2019 Coaching Icon Award. She has received other awards, including the 2023 Outstanding PR Personality of the Year Award by Marketing Edge Brands and Advertising Excellence Awards, the 2022 Leading Ladies Africa 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria, and the 2022 Class of 40 under 40 Most Influential People of African Descent by MIPAD. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.