NEW YORK, NY, May 11, 2021 — To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month and the continual impact of COVID-19 on the lives of young people, Seize the Awkward is launching several partnerships throughout the month of May, equipping young people with the inspiration, tools and language to check in on one another’s mental health. The national, award-winning campaign, a collaboration between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Jed Foundation (JED) and the Ad Council, and created pro bono by creative agency Droga5, is reminding teens and young adults that supporting the mental health of themselves and their friends is an ongoing process, particularly when experiencing the continual impact of COVID-19.
Throughout the past year, many young adults have been forced to miss significant life events or milestones like graduation, starting a new job or moving out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New research indicates that these abrupt pandemic-related changes have taken their toll on the mental health of young adults. According to a recent CDC survey, younger U.S. adults reported worse mental health outcomes and increased substance abuse during the pandemic.¹ Additionally, recent Ad Council research indicates that compared to older adults, young people report feeling more negative emotions during COVID-19, including isolation and depression.²
To encourage young people to check in with one another, the Seize the Awkward Instagram will release an original, four-part video series featuring Dr. Doreen Marshall of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Dr. Wenimo Okoya of The Jed Foundation (JED). Created in partnership with production company Undefined Creative, the video series launches this week with its first video. Throughout the series, Drs. Marshall and Okoya will offer tips to help 16-24-year-olds spot the signs of a friend who may be struggling, ways to reach out and start a conversation and tools to follow up.
“As the country continues to reopen, many young adults are going through a new phase of transition,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council. “Seize the Awkward is poised to continue to provide resources that empower young adults to check in on each other’s mental health as they navigate these changes during this unique and challenging time.”
Young adulthood is a critical time when many people experience mental health issues as well as significant stress from life transitions such as gaining more independence and responsibility when moving from home and beginning college or a career. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death among young adults and for every youth suicide it is estimated that 100-200 others attempt suicide.³
“Research shows us that young people are experiencing increased distress during the pandemic and they are willing to have conversations about mental health but they don’t always know what to say. That is why we have taken steps to create relatable resources to help them navigate these sometimes awkward conversations. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we will be sharing new tools to have conversations about and take care of our own mental health. These actions have the potential to save lives,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Additionally, several popular TikTok and Instagram creators including, Bryce Xavier, Dani Donovan, GegetheJing, Joyce Wert, Liya Hizkias and Shahem, musical group lovelytheband and musicians Alaina Castillo, Daya, Elle Winter, Jensen McRae and Kat Cunning will create original content supporting the Seize the Awkward campaign for sharing across their channels throughout the month of May. Cumulatively, the group maintains an online audience of over 7.8 million people.
“As we continue to address the emotional toll of a global pandemic, the resources and tools we’re providing through Seize the Awkward are essential,” said John MacPhee, executive director and CEO at The Jed Foundation (JED). “We believe that checking in on one another’s mental health can be life saving and we’re proud to be a part of this campaign that continues to reach millions of young people.”
Throughout the month of May, the following digital, social and media partners will also provide significant exposure and customized content for Seize the Awkward on their platforms:
- GIPHY: In partnership with the campaign, the Ad Council commissioned GIPHY artists Grovertoons, Megan Motown and Trap Bob to create new conversation starter GIFs and Stickers for the current campaign collection that young adults can send to a friend showing comfort and support. GIPHY will support all the assets developed across their platform.
- Holler: In a reprisal of its previous partnership with Seize the Awkward for World Emoji Day in 2020, the tech company will create new Goldie and Mo GIF stickers young people can use to support one another across chat messaging apps and keyboards, iMessage and more.
- Instagram: Beginning May 3 through the duration of the month, Instagram is providing the campaign with significant donated media support.
- Loop: On May 20, Mental Health Action Day, join us on Loop, the app that brings people together to support each other, for a special Seize the Awkward conversation about the challenges of reaching out and checking in with a friend around their mental health. The “loop” will be hosted by Dr. Ali Mattu of The Jed Foundation (JED), and everyone is free to join or just listen in.
- Snap, Inc: In honor of the month, Snap is providing Seize the Awkward donated media support across Snap Ads and Story ads, which will run from April 5 through May 30. Snap will also provide a Seize the Awkward branded national lens and filter. This will be the first time the campaign has a custom lens. The lens will be live on May 19 and the filter will be live on May 20 in conjunction with Mental Health Action Day.
- TikTok: The leading destination for short-form mobile video, is providing donated support to the campaign throughout May.
Since its launch in January 2018, Seize the Awkward has garnered 45.1M million video views and over 1.8M sessions on SeizeTheAwkward.org, where visitors can explore resources and tools to help them start a conversation with a friend around mental health. In late August, the website relaunched with deeper resources to aid young people, including guidance on navigating specific topics like grieving the loss of a loved one, when talking to a friend about their mental health. The campaign also received the 2020 Shorty Award for Best Use of a Spokesperson for its partnership with musician Billie Eilish. To learn more about the campaign, visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and @SeizeTheAwkward on Instagram. To get immediate, free support 24/7, call 1-800-273-8255 or text “SEIZE” to 741741.
¹ CDC: Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24-30, 2020. Available at: cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
² Ad Council: Coping with COVID-19, What Americans Need, Feel and Fear About the Coronavirus Pandemic. 2020. Available at: http://covidresearch.adcouncilkit.org/findings_week2/
³ CDC; ACHA NCHA
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Ad Council
The Ad Council has a long history of creating life-saving public service communications in times of national crisis, starting in the organization’s earliest days during World War II to September 11th and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and, most recently, leading the industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its deep relationships with media outlets, the creative community, issue experts and government leaders make the organization uniquely poised to quickly distribute life-saving impactful information to millions of Americans.
The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation’s most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.
The Ad Council’s innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org, follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.
The Ad Council