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Campaign developed by JED, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Droga5 includes support from BuzzFeed, Chegg, Colossal Media, Facebook, The Jacksonville Jaguars, Reddit, Upworthy, Wattpad,and YouTube along with Talent including Hannah Hart, Liza Koshy, Markiplier, Meredith Foster, Orion Carloto, Remi Cruz, Shannon Beveridge, Tyler Oakley and Tyler Posey
NEW YORK, January 17, 2018 – In a groundbreaking effort to empower teens and young adults to reach out to friends with mental health issues who may be at risk for suicide, the Ad Council has joined The Jed Foundation (JED), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Droga5 to launch Seize the Awkward, a national public service campaign. Beginning today the campaign will be activated by an unprecedented group of media partners and platforms, including BuzzFeed, Chegg, Colossal Media, Facebook, The Jacksonville Jaguars, Reddit, Upworthy, Wattpad and YouTube.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults and for every youth suicide, it is estimated that 100-200 others attempt suicide (CDC; ACHA NCHA). 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 responsibilty when moving from home and beginning college or a career. In fact, 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75 percent begin by age 24 (NAMI). Friends of young adults are often the first to recognize signs of an emerging mental health problem or crisis and an estimated 76 percent of young adults turn to a peer in a time of crisis for support (First-Year College Experience Survey: Harris Poll; JED; Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, The Jordan Porco Foundation; College Mental Health Study: Stress, Depression, Stigma & Students; mtvU/JED).
Seize the Awkward encourages teens and young adults, particularly those ages 16-24, to create a safe space for their friends to open up about mental health challenges. The campaign personifies an awkward silence that can happen between friends before a conversation about mental health. This character, Awkward Silence, portrayed by Broadway star and actor Gideon Glick, shows viewers the opportunity that exists in recognizing something is wrong and breaking through an awkward silence between friends – and encourages them to use this moment to check in and ask about their mental health.
“Suicide prevention is increasingly gaining awareness and attention in the national media, but Seize the Awkward marks the start of a collective movement to empower this generation to do something,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “This campaign gives young adults the tools and specific language they need to embrace the critical moment of an awkward silence in a way that could have a life-saving impact.”
The campaign directs audiences to SeizeTheAwkward.org, a new website created by Haus that provides various resources to help young people “seize the awkward” by reaching out to a friend who may be struggling with mental health problems. Resources include tutorial videos, information on warning signs, conversation starters, tips on how to sustain a conversation around mental health, and video testimonials on mental health from talent such as Hannah Hart, Liza Koshy, Remi Cruz and Tyler Posey.
“Mental health is still something of a stigmatized topic among adults and young adults alike. Our aim with Seize the Awkward is to open the lines of communication among friends at risk in an approachable, thoughtful way,” said Ted Royer, Chief Creative Officer of Droga5. “When we see something troublesome, or worse, in our friends and we find the courage to speak to them, we can really help someone in need.”
Popular digital and television talent, with a total audience exceeding 70 million people, are starring in an additional campaign video, as well as supporting the campaign on their social platforms. The video, featuring Hannah Hart, Liza Koshy, Markiplier, Meredith Foster, Orion Carloto, Remi Cruz, Shannon Beveridge, Tyler Oakley and Tyler Posey, shows each celebrity initially looking at the camera in awkward silence, before using that space to start a conversation about mental health. Additional videos include deeper personal stories from many of the celebrities. Talent content was produced by Northbound Film.
“We are excited about the campaign’s potential to dramatically change how young adults, and generations to come, understand mental health, and what to do when a friend may be struggling. And we know from research that suicide is preventable and that it starts with the person opening up and getting someone the help they need,” said Bob Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “Partnering with the Ad Council, JED and Droga5, we have created a campaign that’s the first of its kind and will save lives.”
Dozens of artists, including Baron Von Fancy, Jeremyville, Saša Ostoja, Iain Burke and Franz Lang have interpreted the phrase “seize the awkward” in reference to their personal experiences with mental health. These artworks have been turned into posters that will be shared across college campuses and on social media. They will also be used as wild postings and in a Seize the Awkward exhibition.
“Too many young adults are struggling with mental health issues and not getting the help they need,” said John MacPhee, Executive Director/CEO, JED. “Seize the Awkward will help empower young people to start important and potentially live-saving conversations and take action to support one another. This generation is poised to lead us in changing the culture around mental health and Seize the Awkward aims to help them do just that. We’re proud to launch this groundbreaking campaign with our partners at the Ad Council, AFSP and Droga5.”
Per the Ad Council’s model, the new creative assets will be distributed to media outlets nationwide and will be placed in donated time and space. Several media partners have made commitments to the campaign prior to launch. Each partner will be providing significant exposure and customized content on their platforms. The campaign also includes activations on platforms including:
To learn more about the campaign, visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and follow #SeizeTheAwkward. To get immediate, free support 24/7, call 1-800-273-8255 or text “SEIZE” to 741741.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
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.
Droga5 is a creative and strategic advertising agency headquartered in New York, with an office in London. Founded in 2006, Droga5’s clients include Ancestry, Belstaff, Blue Apron, Chase, COVERGIRL, Danone, ESPN, Georgia-Pacific, Google, Heineken, IHOP, Johnsonville, LVMH, MailChimp, Mattress Firm, Mondelēz International, The Nature’s Bounty Co., The New York Times, Peroni, Pizza Hut, Prudential, Sprint, Tencent, Under Armour, Unilever, and the Y, among others. Droga5 has won Agency of the Year 13 times in the last 11 years and is the only agency to be named to Advertising Age’s A-List over seven consecutive years. For more information, visit droga5.com.
The Ad Council
The Ad Council brings together the most creative minds in advertising and media to address the most worthy causes. Its innovative, pro bono social good campaigns raise awareness. They inspire action. They save lives. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.
If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.