End of March 2020. We’re all familiar with the scenes now. National lockdown. Offices are closed, staff are working from home. Pubs, restaurants, theatres, spas and gyms are shut. All children and young people are sent home from school, with uncertainty about when they’ll be returning. Amidst all this at YoungMinds, we were working on the launch of #HelloYellow, our annual flagship campaign for World Mental Health Day in October.
#HelloYellow started in 2016, with the simple message of asking schools, offices, and community groups to dress up in yellow and raise money for young people’s mental health. Yellow was the obvious choice, being our main brand colour, but also because it symbolises optimism and happiness. Over the years the yellow theme has given us room to be really creative with how people get involved with the day. Banana costumes, emoji outfits, yellow song playlists, yellow bake sales… if it’s yellow, we want to see it!
It’s #HelloYellow !!! 💛💛💛
My friends and I used to wear a yellow bracelet on this day back in school and it truly made a difference! Please join in ✨ pic.twitter.com/PzJiqA009J
— Jade Taylor (@jade_taylor__) October 9, 2020
And yet among all the mustard and custard, at the heart of #HelloYellow is an act of solidarity to show young people they’re not alone with their mental health. Struggling with your mental health can be a very lonely experience and #HelloYellow is about making young people feel that what they are experiencing is valid and creating a safe space for them to talk about it. A message which has been particularly important to showcase this year given the impact lockdown can have on mental health.
The challenges of lockdown
When lockdown came, it threw up a lot of questions for the campaign. With schools being our main audience, it was hard to imagine how the campaign could work if schools were closed. The biggest challenge was the uncertainty. Would schools be open by October? Should we make the entire day a virtual event? What would a socially-distanced school even look like?
We knew we would have to be prepared for a variety of scenarios and to adapt the event as we drew closer to October. Here are some of the things we did:
- Prepared digital resources that our participants could use for the day; virtual lesson plans for teachers, yellow-themed quiz rounds and yellow zoom backgrounds for companies.
- Took photos of staff wearing yellow at their desks so people could visualise how they could still take part if they were working from home.
- Used insights from surveys we had run on the effect of coronavirus on young people’s mental health, to adapt the messaging for the campaign so that it addressed lockdown.
Overall, we positioned #HelloYellow as an event that would bring schools, offices and individuals together in a tough and isolating year. Out of this came this year’s focus for the campaign: together, we can be hopeful about the future.
We started promoting the event in June, launching social media ads and an email acquisition campaign with over 40 emails across 4 four months to segmented audiences. We kept a close eye on how the ads and emails were performing using split tests and behaviour flow analysis on the form and landing page. Truth be told, I think we all felt a bit unsure about how the event would go and whether it would be as popular as previous years.
But instead, when 9 October came, we saw how needed #HelloYellow was. Over 7,000 schools, companies and community groups came together in yellow to tell children and young people they are not alone. #HelloYellow trended in the top 10 of Twitter all day and was filled with photos of school children taking part in wellbeing activities, writing down what helps them look after their mental health and what they can do if they’re struggling. We saw story after story of people sharing their own experiences of mental health, and what has given them hope in a seemingly hopeless year. It reminded us that at its heart, #HelloYellow is all about children and young people.
A sign of solidarity
These days, with so many charity awareness days and campaigns, we can start to question what they actually achieve. And we’ve heard it asked before, ‘how is wearing yellow going to help my mental health?’ We know that wearing yellow on one day of the year is not the answer. But what we do need is for this generation of young people to know that there are people fighting for their mental health. They need to know there are people who will listen to their experiences, and fight for a better system so they can get the support they need when they need it.
This is what #HelloYellow does. It’s about recognising what young people are feeling and going through, validating their stories and empowering them with hope for the future.
It’s about the 7-year-old who goes home from school and tells their mum it’s okay if mummy has to go to hospital sometimes for her mental health.
It’s for the 12-year-old who sees the stories being shared on the hashtag and realises she’s not the only one who feels the way she does.
It’s for the parents who, after a difficult time with their child’s mental health, open their front door to find yellow flowers on their doorstep and yellow ribbons on their neighbours’ front doors.
It’s a sign of solidarity and unity – and in a year of increased loneliness and isolation, and with an uncertain future ahead, a sign of hope that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. And that’s our message – not just on #HelloYellow, but all year round.
Image: James Lee on Unsplash