It’s no secret that Ivy League schools like Yale are demanding. But increasingly more students in colleges, high schools and even middle and elementary schools across the country are reaching out for help with stress, anxiety and depression. According to the American Psychological Association, the number of students seeking on-campus services for mental health issues has been steadily rising since the ’90s.
Indeed, in response to students' increasing anxieties –a problem many people attribute in part to social media– Yale professor Laurie Santos announced she is taking her course online this month. Santos plans to teach people across the country to be happy through a Coursera class rebranded as “The Science of Well-Being.”
Alongside beefed-up mental health services, courses such as Santos' are steps in the right direction. But the truth is, schools, parents and kids are overwhelmed and underequipped to tackle this problem on their own.
How Corporations Can Help
Connecting with young people on a large scale takes commitment, creativity, and financial resources. Corporations have marketing budgets, advertising partners, creative talent, and corporate social responsibility goals. To truly reach students and parents, K-12 schools and colleges need corporations' help.
Fortunately, understanding and reaching audiences is the bread and butter of corporate marketers. Those at consumer-facing brands know how hard parents work to ensure their families are safe, successful, and happy.
Cause marketers and corporate social responsibility leaders know, too, that parents rely on their children’s schools for help. It’s why Ford Motor Company reaches into schools with safe driving resources for teens and H&R Block offers free lesson plans and classroom activities on financial literacy to teachers. Our MDR division at Dun & Bradstreet partners with both firms to benefit hundreds of thousands of high school students.
The most successful cause marketing and CSR campaigns are ones that everyone in an organization can get behind. Depression, anxiety, and stress affect families of employees, customers, and executives alike. Mental health challenges don’t discriminate by social stratum, race, or income level.
To play a part in supporting students' happiness, consider the in-school initiatives of some of the nation’s biggest brands.
1. Sponsor Happiness, Wellness or Resilience Resources and Curriculum for Teens
Psychology and the Good Life might be a college course, but the subject is just as relevant to younger students. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of teens struggle with a mental health issue, and because they’re not mature adults, they rarely have the resources to handle it themselves.
Happiness is multifaceted, so the resources used to support it should be as well. LG just launched its Life’s Good: Experience Happiness campaign, for example. With help from experts, LG is developing curriculum to help educators teach teens six skills that research has shown to be effective in cultivating happiness: mindfulness, gratitude, positive outlook, purpose, generosity, and human connection.
This type of campaign works great for companies that sell to families, particularly parents and teens. Be sure to work with curriculum pros, like our editors at WeAreTeachers, who understand what teachers need and how to create and promote lesson plans for today’s digital classroom.
2.Focus on Fun and Games for Younger Children
Unfortunately, younger children aren’t immune to negative thinking and stress. Before they’ve memorized their multiplication tables, some are worrying about standardized tests, school safety, and how many friends they have on social media. Teaching kids how to manage their stress early will equip them for whatever they might face later in life.
Interactive games and activities are great tools for teaching resilience to younger students. I’m reminded of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish’s Fishful Thinking campaign that was geared toward 7- to 12-year-old children. For its initiative, Pepperidge Farm partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Project to teach optimism, which can be learned just like multiplication. Brands that reach Millennial moms and dads, especially younger ones, should give this type of campaign a try.
3. Develop Teacher Training Tools, Such as Videos for Teachers
Poor body image and self-esteem can be a huge issue for girls and boys, negatively impacting health, friendships, and even performance at school. This challenge is a perfect initiative for a beauty and cosmetics brand like Dove, though almost any Fortune 1000 consumer-facing firm could tackle something similar.
Dove’s beloved Real Beauty campaign has evolved over the years into a number of related initiatives, including the teen-targeted Dove Self-Esteem Project. Confident Me, Dove’s campaign aimed at 8- to 16-year-old students, includes a series of six five-minute training videos that help educators teach this content to their students. An in-school campaign can only be successful if the educator is equipped to teach the topic.
Of course, helping students develop the skills necessary to lead happy lives isn’t as simple as offering a class or a game, but teachers welcome useful resources with open arms. When schools, nonprofits, and corporations join forces, students, teachers, and families can truly benefit.
About the Author
Bernadette Grey is the chief marketing strategist at MDR, the nation’s leading education marketing group. A division of Dun & Bradstreet, MDR provides education marketing data, services, sales tools, and digital marketing solutions to the education industry and Fortune 500 brands. It specializes in bringing leading brands’ messages to teachers, students, and parents.