May is Mental Health Awareness month and Burger King has launched their new #FeelYourWay campaign in partnership with Mental Health America. The fast-food giant is taking aim at McDonald’s Happy Meals by offering “Real Meals” in various moods like “Blue” or “Pissed”. With the slogan, “No one is happy all the time. And that’s okay.”, this campaign is designed to validate emotions other than happiness.
According to Mental Health America, more than 44 million Americans are affected by some form of mental health disorder. Unfortunately, a growing portion of these cases are seen in younger generations. Mental Health America reports that Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) in youth has risen from 8.66% to 12.63% on just one year.
Mental health is the topic of the millennial generation. Jenny Marie is a mental health advocate at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and she argues that “Millennials are often referred to as the ‘anxious generation’ They were the first to grow up with the constant overflow of the internet and social media. This can result in low self-esteem and insecurity.”
Generational awareness and acceptance is key to overcoming the stigma around mental illness. As I have written in the past, “There is a stigma around this issue that prevents people from getting the help they need, and there is not legislation that could remedy this.” The rhetoric around mental illness will change with more creative, private sector, options–as well as campaigns like the #FeelYourWay from Burger King.
As a corporation taking on a serious social issue, Burger King is leveraging their brand recognition in order to bring attention to the harmful (and false) idea that “normal” people are happy all the time. Ordering a Happy Meal off the McDonald’s menu while you’re suffering from depression may not seem like a big deal but Burger King wants to validate different emotions by naming their meals as “Real.” The “Real Meals” and the variety of emotions they are available in may be cheesy, but I appreciate a business making an effort to change the conversation.
The video roll out has had mixed reviews. Some believe that Burger King is prioritizing trolling McDonald’s in order to make a profit off of a touchy topic. However, I think that if we take a less cynical view we can appreciate any effort made by a private institution to end the stigma around mental illness. The Washington Post puts it nicely, “Though the campaign may not encourage everyone to seek help, experts say, it could spark conversations around depression, anxiety and other disorders, especially among teens and young adults.”
Watch the video below and decide for yourself which of the Real Meals you’re feeling today: