Visualising Mental Health in Europe

Trends / Wellness
Paul Thuysbaert
Sandra Michalska
Apr 23, 2021
Without any doubt, the pandemic has sparked conversations around mental wellness.
With multiple countries across Europe remaining under various Covid‑19 restrictions, Europeans of all ages, professions and social groups levitate between the sentiments of pessimism and resignation. Our Visual GPS research shows that nearly half of Europeans believe more people will be diagnosed with depression as a result of living under Covid. This situation opens an opportunity for healthcare brands to step in, especially in times of uncertainty when consumers have more trust in businesses than NGOs, governments or the media, as shown by the recent Trust Barometer from Edelman.

The mental health awakening
While the crisis has worsened many pre‑existing problems, it has also exposed social disparities and how mental health issues touch different social groups at different levels. In Portugal, more than half of health workers are exposed to a high risk of burnout. Yet, the stress of working from home combined with job security concerns apply to all communities. In Denmark, the research project ‘Standing Together – at a distance’ tracked the country’s mental health status, and it confirms that the lockdowns had a negative, long‑lasting impact on anxiety levels. In Italy, there are reports that women and older people's mental wellbeing worsened more.

But there is another side to this story. Since the mental crisis rages on, a number of Europeans have started looking for help—and many of them for the first time. In the UK, the outbreak has led to a 200% increase in health apps downloads, particularly those around mental wellbeing. In Spain, pet adoptions went up to cope with loneliness while in France, 75% of psychologist reported a massive workload increase. No surprise then, that the newest drama “En Thérapie” (adapted from Israeli “In Treatment” format) produced by Arte has become one of the most‑watched series in the country this spring.

If these statistics are any indication, it has never been more crucial to discuss the pandemic’s psychological effects on European citizens and to broaden perception around mental wellbeing.
Evolving mental health visuals
Our recent research shows the rising importance of visualising mental health for our European customers. In the last 12 months, mental health searches on Getty Images grew by 104%. With this growth of interest, a quiet and positive evolution is beginning to emerge around the representation of mental wellness. Five years ago, our European customer downloads focused on the negative impacts of mental health on individuals, showing them alone and concealing parts of their face or body. We are now seeing a visual shift away from these stories of isolation and shame to more proactive and positive stories of inclusive therapy support groups. However, there is much more to be done to help normalise mental health: it's important to use visuals that are more inclusive of people of all backgrounds and identities.
Actionable insights:
Remember that all brands have a responsibility to challenge negative stereotypes and help normalise the conversation around mental health. According to our ongoing Visual GPS research, 9 in 10 Europeans say it is very important to talk about mental health. At Getty Images, we’re committed to driving the visual conversation forward around mental wellbeing. We have put together some actionable insights to help you better connect with your audience:

  • Celebrate togetherness – Move away from visuals that show the negative impact of isolation on mental health. Instead, highlight the positive and proactive caring actions people are taking to collectively help one another. Choose authentic, multi‑dimensional visuals that show positive support and empathy.

  • Care for self – Show the small changes real people make to their daily routines to decompress from life stresses. Think about visuals that show the emotional rewards people get from taking a walk in nature, pursuing a hobby or simply preparing a favourite meal. Represent a broad spectrum of proactive self‑care moments.

  • Make it inclusive – Your customers are paying attention to who is represented in your mental health visuals. According to our Visual GPS research, the top visual preference that drives European customers' purchasing decisions is 'seeing people like me and my life'. Therefore, it is important to truly reflect your customer base across many intersecting identity factors, especially in your mental wellbeing visuals. 

Visualising Mental Health in the Middle East