Look again: Monitors at Pittsburgh Airport offer mental health messages, not ads
Life is stressful, with reports of anxiety, depression and mental illness on the rise.
This summer, all the packed airplanes and delayed or canceled flights mean travel is super stressful, too, and it's no doubt triggering for many people.
So, what better place to offer hopeful and helpful mental health awareness messages than in an airport?
In concert with a variety of local community groups and organizations, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) installed nine digital monitors in the terminal offering video messages about the importance of mental health and offering resources for people seeking more information or assistance.
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The campaign is intended to run through December 2024, but "it is our intention to continue expanding the campaign programming beyond that date," Bob Kerlik, PIT spokesperson, said. "We continue to put our passengers and our team members first. This includes providing mental health support resources as we navigate the challenges and stress of everyday life," Kerlik said of PIT's new terminal program.
The monitors, which measure 7 feet tall and have 55-inch screens, are hard to miss. They include diverse and inclusive messages, including some recorded by entertainment icons and beloved sports figures from local teams such as the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers. There are also some messages from local arts and activism organization 1Hood Media.
“Mental health is as important as physical health,” Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport, said. “And we all really want to be sure we’re taking care of ourselves so we can take of others.”
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, of the nearly 53 million U.S. adults diagnosed with a mental illness, only 46% have accessed mental health services.
“I have always believed that one of the ways we can eliminate the stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness is to, what I call, normalize it,” Joni Schwager, executive director of Staunton Farm Foundation, said. The organization funded the mental health monitors at PIT. “By seeing these exhibits with different people whose faces they recognize ... it makes it not quite as stigmatizing and not quite as scary.“
The new campaign at PIT coincides with the launch of the nationwide suicide and crisis lifeline number (988) that went live on July 16. Its audience goes beyond passengers.
The recent report from SHRM also found that 94% of human resources professionals believe that by offering mental health resources, organizations can improve the overall health of employees. There are thousands of people who work at PIT.
The mental health messages on the monitors are also designed for kids and families.
One of the screens is in PIT’s Kidsport — a 2,100-square-foot interactive children’s play area in Concourse C. This screen features messages from the Fred Rogers Productions preschool series "Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood," encouraging children to communicate their feelings to adults. The message also offers helpful suggestions for parents and caregivers on how to support young travelers.
“The social and emotional strategies of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood are relatable for preschoolers because they are based on established child development principles, and we hope the messages will help young travelers and parents navigate the emotions and new experiences that come with travel,” Paul Siefken, president and CEO of Fred Rogers Productions, said.
“We are excited about this initiative with Pittsburgh International Airport,” SFF’s Schwager said. “Millions of people from our region and around the world will take the message of hope to their final destinations.”