#FeelYourWay doesn’t let me feel my way

Burger King used Mental Health Awareness month to boost their publicity.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Burger King used Mental Health Awareness month to boost their publicity. Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Kassidy Crown

Pissed, DGAF, YAAAS, Blue and Salty — these are the new names of Burger King’s Real Meals, a new campaign the company has started for mental health awareness month.

Burger King’s #FeelYourWay campaign is thinly veiled behind May being Mental Health Awareness Month, but is really a jab at McDonald’s Happy Meals.

According to The Drum writer Kyle O’Brien, Burger King has partnered with Mental Health America, a community-based non-profit that seeks to raise awareness concerning the struggles that people with mental illnesses face.

However, the campaign is not the step forward toward de-stigmatization it claims to be, nor does it help raise awareness of legitimate mental health concerns.

Instead, it works against the progress our society needs, adding trivialization in spaces that need authentic conversation.

While not being happy all the time is okay, as Burger King’s ad for their campaign states, replacing the meal’s names with Pissed, DGAF and YAAAS is not real recognition of mental health awareness, nor does it awareness for mental illnesses as the company claims.

Mental health issues are far more complex than just saying you are mad or salty at someone. They represent deep struggles, pain, in addition to stories of heroism and overcoming. This depth and complexity can never hope to be accurately represented in a cardboard marketing scheme.

I would like to hope that this campaign is more than just a PR move to attack competition like McDonald’s, but the message Burger King is giving out is not helpful, it is dangerous.

By claiming awareness for mental health but yet not taking the task seriously, instead  insinuating that being pissed, blue, or that you DGAF equates to mental illness, Burger King and other organizations that follow suit perpetuate the idea that legitimate mental illnesses are not an actual concerns.

Burger King’s apparent lackadaisical attitude toward representing mental illness gives fire to those who would claim that people need to “just get over it” when they open up about their struggles with mental health. It cheapens an issue fighting for recognition and legitimacy, thus representing a dangerous step backward for the societal conversation surrounding mental health.

There are ways that companies can engage in discussing mental health issues, though. The Depressed Cake Shop, a pop-up bakery, features grey cakes with pops of various colors on the inside.

Instead of jumping on a campaign trend for mental health awareness month, the Depressed Cake Shop has made its mission from the beginning to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Their site features mental health resources, including the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) helpline, the crisis text line, and various mental health coping mechanisms.

By putting actual symptoms, stereotypes and names of mental illnesses on grey cakes, the company is opening the door for constructive conversation and education, as well as providing the message of hope when the consumer sees the cake’s colorful insides.

Burger King’s campaign could learn from The Depressed Cake Shop, a company that approaches awareness in a way that is intentional, sensitive and effective.

Stigma around mental illness is not eliminated by corporate PR schemes looking to cash in on an awareness scheme — it’s honest companies like The Depressed Cake Shop who make it their mission to initiate conversation around legitimate issues in a respectful manner.

Meaningful representation is how you make a difference. I would hope that the Burger King campaign would serve not as an example of raising awareness, but rather that it could be transformed as opportunity to learn from and recognize mistakes that are made when approaching mental health.