To coincide with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Ad Council, in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Jed Foundation (JED), are launching new digital and social activations aimed at empowering teens and young adults to reach out to friends with mental health issues who may be at risk for suicide. Throughout September, the Seize the Awkward campaign will activate on platforms popular among teens and young adults, including Reddit, Shine, Tumblr and Twitch. The Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, digital influencer Jessie Paege, art community Goodtype, creative platform Social Native, entertainment media brand Billboard and CMT Group will also help amplify the campaign message. The targeted coalition’s major digital and experiential activations will provide young adults with the language and encouragement they need to start a conversation with a friend around mental health.
The month of September is characterized by transition as young adults return to school or depart for college for the first time, making the Seize the Awkward message of checking in with a friend especially timely and relevant. 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. Young adulthood is a time when many people experience significant stress from life transitions such as gaining more independence and responsibility when moving from home and beginning college or a career. It is a critical time when many experience mental health issues. Friends of young adults are often the first to recognize signs of an emerging mental health problem and an estimated 76 percent of young adults turn to a peer in a time of crisis for support.2
“This extraordinary group of leading digital, social and experiential partners will give us the opportunity to reach teens and young adults where they are at a time when they may need to hear this critical message most,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Each of our September activations offers a unique opportunity to authentically connect with young adults and provide the necessary resources to start important and potentially life-saving conversations.”
Throughout the month of September, Seize the Awkward will encourage 16- to 24-year-olds to create a safe space for their friends to open up about mental health challenges. To coincide with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the back to school season, the following partners will provide significant exposure and customized content on their platforms. The month-long activations will conclude on September 26th with a Seize the Awkward Twitter chat at 2pm ET hosted by JED, giving individuals the opportunity to ask and answer questions related to the campaign.
- Billboard: The popular entertainment media brand Billboard will run donated media across its platform, in addition to creating a custom article, highlighting artists who have experience with mental health issues. Both will encourage individuals to reach out a friend who may be in need.
- CMT Group: Through mid-September, the transportation service operating in more than 150 American cities will run Seize the Awkward PSAs in taxis in New York City and beyond.
- Dear Evan Hansen: The Broadway musical will include Seize the Awkward themed postcards in its Playbill inserts throughout the month of September. On social media, the musical will also feature select Dear Evan Hansen lyrics as conversation starters individuals can use to talk to peers about mental health.
- Goodtype: On September 4th, the Instagram art community Goodtype promoted a challenge to its more than 911,000 followers in honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Followers were encouraged to create an original work of art dedicated to Seize the Awkward and share why it’s important to have mental health conversations with a friend.
- Jessie Paege: The campaign added a new personal story video to its collection of star-studded talent partnerships on September 4th, which includes past participants Liza Koshy, Markiplier and more. The new personal story video features popular Gen-Z digital influencer Jessie Paege, discussing her experience with social anxiety and the importance of starting a conversation with a peer who may be struggling with their mental health.
- Reddit: On September 12th Reddit will donate paid media to support an Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer from JED. Users will be able to ask questions related to mental health and supporting a friend who may be in need during the school year.
- Shine: The daily messaging service, Shine, will feature Seize the Awkward themed stories from social media talent Orion Carloto and Shannon Beveridge across the daily Shine Text and via audio Shine Stories in the Shine app for iOS on National Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th.
- Social Native: Social Native is offering donated support to the campaign and encouraging popular Instagram users to create and share authentic content in honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Creators will share Instagram content that highlights a peer they turn to for support.
- Tumblr: In honor of National Suicide Prevention Day, Tumblr will donate paid media to feature the Seize the Awkward campaign on the Dashboard for all U.S. users on September 10th. Tumblr will also host an Answer Time on September 12th with Stephanie Coggin, SVP Marketing and Communications from AFSP and Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer from JED. The Tumblr community will have the opportunity to ask questions about mental health for themselves or to support a friend who might be struggling. Tumblr parent company Oath is also donating media to support this initiative.
- Twitch: Live streaming service Twitch, is taking part in the campaign by promoting the three-day long Seize the Awkward charity fundraiser from September 18th-20th. Achievement Hunter, jcyrus, katybentz, MissKyliee, Natalie “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova,” negaoryx, OMGitsfirefoxx, Rhianna Devries and schviftyFive, among others, will raise monetary donations on their Twitch channels for the Seize the Awkward campaign through Tiltify.
“AFSP thanks our partners Ad Council and JED for their collaboration on Seize the Awkward,” said CEO Bob Gebbia, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Today’s youth are having real conversations about mental health and suicide. Through this campaign, we are giving them the tools and resources in the digital spaces they frequent to have these conversations in a safe way – by doing so we are empowering them to save lives.”
“Teens and young adults often know when their peers are struggling with emotional health issues,” said John MacPhee, CEO of JED. “Seize the Awkward is seizing on the opportunity of heightened awareness during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to meet young people where they are — online — and give them the chance to ask questions about how they can help a friend in popular and low-pressure, accessible platforms like Reddit’s AMA and Tumblr’s Answer Time. JED is grateful to work with our partners at the AFSP and Ad Council on this campaign.”
Since its launch in January 2018, the Seize the Awkward campaign has garnered 7.5 million video views and over 87,000 sessions on SeizeTheAwkward.org, where visitors can explore resources and tools to help them start a conversation with a peer around mental health. To learn more about the campaign, visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and follow #SeizeTheAwkward.