To honour World Mental Health Day, we are shining a spotlight on mental health. Modern lifestyles are stressing out consumers, highlighting a need for new approaches to boost mood and improve mental wellbeing. From an app connecting users with physical and mental health counselors, to a robot teaching people how to express affection, we select five global initiatives that have helped consumers get in touch with their mental wellbeing over the past year.

Department of wellbeing – New Zealand

This year, New Zealand has passed the world’s first ‘wellbeing budget’, using government spending to improve certain social outcomes and intergenerational issues. While socially and environmentally progressive budget commitments aren’t a big change, the new mindset behind the budget is. Government ministers are now tasked with finding collaborative ways to meet five health goals: to support mental health; reduce child poverty; increase support for Maori and Pacific Islander peoples; ready the economy for a low-carbon future; and boost productivity and digital innovation. Progress will then be measured against these outcomes, with the data generated by these initiatives to be used to make future budgeting decisions.

New Zealand is making the point that spending should be about more than just raising the levels of GDP. While not all countries are in a position to focus on wellbeing over fiscal growth, those that have the capacity should consider their gaps in living standards and the causes of these. By investing in human and social outcomes, New Zealand is looking far into the future with the hope that a happier and healthier populace will be better equipped to tackle the challenges of global instability.

Every mind matters – UK

In time for World Mental Health Day, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Cambridge have voiced an advert for a new mental health campaign called “Every Mind Matters”, in collaboration with Public Health England and the NHS. The video, which features celebrities like Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson and Katie Piper, has caused the website to crash on launch day. The campaign also includes a quiz that people can take to assess their mental wellbeing and get a ‘mind plan’ to deal with stress and boost their mood.

There has been a strong focus on mental health products and initiatives over the past few years in the UK. British consumers are increasingly realising that mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so.

All you need is Lovot – Japan

Japanese robotics start-up Groove-X has created a robot designed to awaken the human capacity for love. The Lovot uses AI to unlock empathy, reduce stress and loneliness, improve mental health and enable social emotional learning in its owners. The robot loves to be petted and hugged, greets people at the door and waves them off; it enjoys playing and is always warm. It can also recognise its favourite people – those who hold it gently, speak to it while looking it in the eye and kneel down to its level while talking.

Loneliness and social isolation are becoming real problems – while stereotypically we may think of just older people being lonely, it is also a growing concern for Gen Z as they shy away from face-to-face contact for the safety of a social media screen. Lack of contact with others can mean people forget how to connect with others, which makes it difficult to forge new connections in future. In this way, social isolation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. AI that can optimise itself for human emotions like love and connection, as opposed to efficiency or utility, could lead to technology that fulfils our emotional needs.

Digital health – Malaysia

Naluri is a Malaysian app that provides professional health and life coaching services by connecting users to health professionals such as psychologists, dieticians, fitness coaches and even pharmacists. Through AI, the app analyses users’ responses and progress, and summarises the data for professional human coaches to provide more precise and higher-quality advice. It also includes digital tools such as food journals, daily planners and thought journals to help users learn, plan and track their progress. The goal is to help people achieve better health.

In many Asian societies, people are reluctant to connect with health professionals because they do not have the resources or access to do so. This is especially true for mental or psychological issues. Because there is somewhat of a safe distance seeking healthcare solutions online, digital therapeutics could show great promise. Nimble organisations and insurers will look to adopt digital health solutions in tandem with their existing health programmes, giving patients the chance to benefit from highly engaging and hyper-personalised treatment options.

Fuel for the mind – China

Carabao’s latest ad campaign positions its energy drink as a support that helps people in overcoming their everyday challenges. The energy drink brand developed a seven-minute film that tells the stories of six different people. All the stories describe mentally challenging situations, such as working overtime or dealing with money issues.

A recent study found that mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are on the rise in China, which is partly caused by the country’s rapid social change that is bringing a general increase in psychological pressure and stress. Today’s consumers are increasingly seeking mental support to deal with tiresome situations at work and in their personal lives. While most energy drink brands focus on their audience’s physical needs, like fuelling them during or after a workout, Carabao’s campaign taps into the rising awareness towards mental health by presenting mental challenges that are recognisable to most people, encouraging them to overcome them.

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