The last year has been one of the toughest in living memory for everyone’s mental health – isolating lockdowns have exacerbated an already rapidly growing crisis, but for LGBT+ communities the figures are even more concerning: 52% of LGBT+ people experienced depression over the last year and 31% of LGBT+ people said they’ve attempted to take their own life in the last year – this increases to 46% within the trans community. The statistics are as shocking as they are heartbreaking.
This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May 2021), a moment to focus the spotlight on the magnitude of the challenges faced and to reflect on the part we can all play in addressing them.
Supporting the mental health of all our employees, or Associates as we call them, has been front and centre of Mars’ response to the pandemic in the last year. From training mental health first aiders to starting a virtual health club and ramping up our efforts on inclusion and diversity, I’m proud to work for a company that puts wellbeing first and never more so than in these difficult times. But our potential influence extends far beyond our four walls.
This month Mars Petcare is launching its first promotion that directly supports the LGBT+ community and their mental health. Petcare brands may not immediately come to mind as a natural supporter of this cause, but, given the privilege of being present in homes across the nation, our brands are an important platform for raising awareness of support. Mars Petcare exists to make a better world for pets and every bit of care and love the nation has shown to its pets in the last year has been reflected back from pets to their parents in spades.
According to research by MentalHealth.org in February, mental health problems such as depression, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts, are still more prevalent among people who are LGBT+ due to discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, social isolation, rejection, and difficult experiences of coming out. While clearly it’s only one avenue to getting support, pets have provided immeasurable solace, companionship and distraction in these turbulent times – 71% of the LGBT+ community have a pet and 82% of LGBT+ pet owners surveyed agree that being around animals helps their mental health.
From this month, we will be partnering with the LGBT Foundation, a charity which delivers advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. We will be working together to find ways to make a real difference to the lives of LGBT+ people – firstly by ensuring their fantastic helpline is open and ready to give those in need someone to talk to, and someone to listen.
And secondly, by signposting the support available to our LGBT+ consumers, their families and friends by launching an on-pack activation that gives Dreamies packs a new look – prominently displaying the contact details of the LGBT Foundation helpline.
Internally, for our own Mars teams, we’re rolling out LGBT+ awareness training through LGBT Foundation’s ‘Pride in Practice Training Academy’, reviewing our policies, and making resources available to all of our employees.
As a business community and a society, we need to do more to protect mental health for all, but particularly amongst the LGBT+ community and we need to use a breath of brands and platforms to help create a more inclusive and diverse world. So, in National Mental Health Awareness Week, take pause to reflect on yourself, to be grateful for the people and pets that support your mental wellbeing and to consider the opportunity to use your brands and businesses as a platform for positive change.