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Mental Health Innovations is working with Create Not Hate on a new campaign to reach young Black males, which will be launching later this summer.

We caught up with Create Not Hate’s CEO Trevor Robinson OBE to share more about his own experiences on why it’s so important for young Black teenagers and men to have mental health support and how his creative agency is working with Mental Health Innovations’ text service Shout 85258 to address that need.

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Trevor Robinson OBE, Founder of Create Not Hate

What is Create Not Hate and why was it established?

Create Not Hate is an initiative I originally started in 2007 in response to the murder of a young Black man at my old school. I wanted to get young people who are affected by gang related violence into creative industries by showing them the ropes. In 2020, the murder of George Floyd highlighted global racial inequality. For British advertising, it shone a bright light on the lack of diversity in the industry. It is shameful and a waste to both parties. The industry is missing out on talent that is going into other industries, and talented young creatives of colour are missing out on even being aware of these opportunities.

Create Not Hate is an initiative where both parties benefit. Young people get to understand the virtues of an industry that has long been invisible and inaccessible to them through workshops, mentoring and industry opportunities. The industry gets fresh thinking, unstrained talent.

People should see initiatives which aim to diversify the industry through this lens of balance and equality – a lens that is not tainted by impressions of charity or pity. It's important people understand it’s not moralistic to diversify your workforce. It benefits your company. Work is more contemporary, surprising, exciting. Diverse perspectives are often more engaged with the outside world. How can you be doing advertising for the nation when you only have one voice?

Using creativity as a tool to help cope with mental health issues

When I was a kid my dad left home by the time I was 10. I lived on an estate in Clapham with my mum and siblings. I had the usual angst of teenage years, and it was hard coming to the realisation I was growing up in a country I often didn’t feel I belonged in. The National Front were at their peak and Enoch Powell was celebrated for his attitudes towards immigration. Racism was rife.

I grew up feeling quite troubled and disengaged. I suffered from migraines and depression. It didn’t even occur to me to talk to anyone about this. Not even my mum to whom I was very close. In hindsight, I didn’t realise how fragile mental health was. I just maintained the attitude that I needed to get on with things.

Creativity and self-expression are great medicine for mental health. When I was younger, I would lose myself in making comics and go karts. I know lots of kids who use creativity to help with anxiety. I found it a good outlet to help me through difficult times.

I can emphasise with young Black kids growing up now. There’s a lot of pressure on young Black boys and men to be resilient and masculine. Social media has contributed to this pressure to conform. Racism still leaves young people feeling marginalised and unheard. I was lucky to come from a family who was very proud but some of the Black kids I knew felt ashamed. They’d try to assimilate as much as they could. That’s a serious form of self-hatred. While the stigma around mental health is being challenged and gradually broken down, there is a nonchalance when it comes to mental health in the Black community.

Working with Shout 85258 to engage young Black men

That’s why the work we’re doing with Shout is so important. Together we can tackle this problem. We want to appeal to hard to reach young Black men who are struggling with their mental health due to cultural barriers and systemic discrimination. Honestly, I didn’t realise the full extent of the problem before we started working on this project. Research findings have shown how the pandemic has only worsened this issue, further marginalising a group who often feel they are living on the edge of society.

Now more than ever it is important we support young Black boys' and men's mental health. Through Create Not Hate we have access to brilliant young people who are closer to the elements we’re talking about. They can offer a unique perspective and fresh thinking. Together we want to create a campaign that appeals to our target audience; that makes them feel heard and valued, and encourages them to seek a little support when they’re struggling to cope.