We have been working with the City of Chicago for the past year to produce a fully integrated public health campaign, UN[ ]SPOKEN, on mental health awareness. Our goal is to reduce the stigma around mental health, particularly in Black and Brown communities, and to break down the barriers that keep residents from speaking up and getting the help they need. We also seek to direct residents to resources available from the City, whether through trauma centers in areas of highest need or information on the web.

The reality is that Covid-19 has caused a giant increase in depression. Illinois Gov. Pritzker said that there is a 50% rise in reports of mental health related incidents. Forty percent of Chicago residents say that mental health is one of their greatest challenges. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “We have to root the recovery of mental health at the core of our Covid-19 response.”

Edelman Chicago produced a logo, panels for mass transit, a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune, a website with medical professionals and ordinary citizens relating their stories of mental illness, plus the usual earned media blitz. Kevin Cook, president of Edelman Chicago, wrote of the effort, “I am incredibly proud of the One Edelman team that produced the campaign, another example of important work in the world, particularly in our home city.”

Chicago is known as the Windy City for its brash people willing to talk about anything from sports to music to beer in a boisterous way. But even in the City of Big Shoulders, we have given residents the permission to get the help they need. This is true civility.

This campaign follows our recent work with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to address Black students’ mental health. Just a few months ago we helped to launch the “The Unspoken Curriculum” — a six-week campaign to address the mental health risks the education system places on students, particularly Black students ages 12-22. Edelman developed a spoken word video describing the disparities of the Black student experience, a landing page with call-to-action resources, After School Hangout sessions with licensed therapists for students and partnered with mental health practitioners and influencers to help spread the word. Lisa Osborne Ross, U.S. CEO, remarked on the significance of this work to all U.S. employees, “This work is remarkable, work we want to do more of, work that is great by doing good.”

These efforts have special meaning to my brother, sister and me as my late mother, Ruth Edelman, suffered from manic depression for forty years. She soldiered on through the pain, working alongside my father, Dan, in building Edelman. She was hospitalized twice to a local institution because her medication was inappropriate for a lithium intolerant patient. She would eat in the middle of the night to ease her profound sadness, leading to gigantic weight swings and eventually locks on the refrigerator at home. She was never afraid to admit that she had the disease; she went to Washington to testify in Congress with Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) about the necessity of Federal funding for mental health.

PS I have not written my blog for the past two weeks as I went on vacation. I did not call the office. I did not speak with clients. I read books, rode my bike, played tennis, saw my family and slept as many as 11 hours a day. All of us have been soldiers for the past 18 months, enduring work from home, endless Zoom calls, fear of disease, death of loved ones. I did not know how exhausted I was; I was going on fumes and adrenaline, plus tea in the afternoon. For all our your sakes, take a real break, look up at the sky and say thank you.

Richard Edelman is CEO.