Words can be communicators’ most powerful tools, but they can sometimes get in the way. After all, they have a big job to do: They must overcome challenging barriers such as culture, ethnicity and language to be fully understood and ultimately effective — especially when addressing a subject as sensitive and critically important as mental health.
What can speak louder than words? Visuals.
According to a recent study, 40 percent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. This makes perfect sense when you consider that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Similarly, our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
If communicators want to talk to people about how mental health matters and create a more inclusive world for those with mental health challenges, we need to use graphics and illustrations to do it. Visual communication tools can create a common language for conversations about mental health. They can level the playing field between researchers and practitioners and the general public, making statistics and other trend information easier to understand to audiences less familiar with mental health-related terms and practices.
Luckily, with a push from the growing popularity of visually based social network Pinterest, many of our peers are already using images to share stories about mental health. Here are a few examples of how visual communications can be powerful spokespeople for mental health awareness.
Eight Dimensions of Wellness Diagram — SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative
The diagram in this new public service announcement (PSA) illustrates the interconnectedness of all elements of wellness that people, especially ones with mental health and substance use challenges, should address to live longer, healthier lives and stay on the path to recovery.
Child Abuse Ad Campaign — Save the Children
This award-winning PSA simply and powerfully illustrates the cycle of child abuse and trauma. Without words, it shows how a child who experiences abuse can develop into an adult abuser, if there is no intervention.
Ghoulish Fact of the Day, Halloween for Mental Health Literacy Campaign — National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
Colorful, creative infographics can give stuffy statistics about mental health new life and reach new audiences, especially social media users.
Learn about Your Brain, May 30, 2012 — Everybody Has A Brain Tumblr
Tumblr is rising in popularity as a visual blogging platform, and allows individuals (and organizations) to visually tell stories in a personal way.