McCann Health, part of McCann Worldgroup and the Interpublic Group, today announced that Guinness World Records has awarded McCann Torre Lazur, A McCann Health Company based in Parsippany, New Jersey, the world record for The Orange Project, the largest online album of handwritten notes with more than 34,000 notes tallied.
The once-in-a-lifetime achievement will be celebrated by MTL’s nearly 200 employees alongside the New York City chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention(AFSP) and Guinness World Records officials in their Parsippany offices with orange-themed food, drinks, and decorations.
Created by youth, for the youth, The Orange Project not only broke a world record, but also empowered adolescents to help save the lives of people just like them. MTL teamed up with UK-based, youth-focused organization, The Ideas Foundation, to roll out a worldwide creative competition asking teens how they would prefer talking to each other about suicide. Handwritten notes was their solution.
“When someone you love dies by suicide, there’s no handbook, no rules, no guidance for how to handle it,” says Jennifer Dee, VP, Director, Integrated Production at MTL, who founded the project due to personal loss. “No one explains how to deal with the guilt or the grief or the questions. Nobody tells you how to sift through the darkness and come out on the other side. For months afterward, I didn’t want to do anything but lay in a fetal position for the rest of my life.”
But after many months of grieving, Jennifer decided that she needed to take action, to do something to prevent deaths like her boyfriend’s or experiences like hers, to break down the silence and stigma that surrounds suicide.
MTL kicked off The Orange Project on September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day 2016, with a team of employees who volunteered to collect handwritten notes of hope and encouragement for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. The project emphasizes the importance of real connections by stripping away technology and encouraging people to have conversations about mental health and suicide.
Through personal messages to administrators in more than 45 schools across the country, MTL invited schools to incorporate The Orange Project into their curriculum. Schools in seven states adopted The Orange Project into their lessons, Health and Wellness days, and district-wide activities. Administrators draped banners in the hallways to display thousands of notes for students and teachers to read and initiate conversations about suicide. Teachers spoke to students about their struggles and asked them to think about what makes life worth living.
“I love The Orange Project because it is a positive message and kids know just by reading a note that things can get better, that people care,” says Wendy Sefcik, creator of Remembering T.J., a suicide awareness presentation for local high schools. “I joined this project because I lost my son T.J. to suicide and I want kids to understand it’s okay to ask for help.”
The MTL team of volunteers went to elder-care homes and summer camps and engaged with the public at eleven live events such as NYC PrideFest, NYC AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walks, and a men’s college basketball game. Eventgoers spoke with the volunteers as they shared personal stories, thanked them for their efforts, and wrote notes of encouragement to those who need it.
The MTL team’s campaign against suicide began on World Suicide Prevention Day 2014 with the launch of the hashtag #worthliving. Now, with The Orange Project, they’ve made Guinness World Record-breaking strides to help prevent suicide. The goal of this team? To spread hope, and ultimately save a life.