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Focus on Regulation

UK Advice on Mental Health in Advertising

On the back of a number of high profile initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues in the UK this year, the UK Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published a timely reminder for advertisers of how mental health is addressed under the UK advertising rules (the CAP and BCAP Codes).

There is no specific section on mental health in the Codes. Instead direct and indirect references to mental health issues are subject to the general requirements for advertising to be socially responsible and not cause serious offence, and the detailed rules on referring to medical conditions.

CAP advises advertisers to consider the following three questions when developing their ad campaigns:

  1. Is the ad socially responsible? For example, could it exploit consumers who are mentally or socially vulnerable? Or does it suggest that the advertised product or service could provide an escape from a mental health condition such as depression?
  2. Could the ad could cause offence or reinforce negative stereotypes about mental health problems?
  3. Does the ad refer to a mental health condition for which medical advice should be sought? If so, any treatment advertised must be supervised by a suitably qualified healthcare professional.  Could the ad discourage people from seeking appropriate treatment for a mental health condition?

The full advice is available here.