UNION Slams the Door on Teen Suicide for Partners for Mental Health

By Erik Oster 

The angrily-slammed door is an all too familiar sight (and/or sound) to many parents raising teens. Toronto-based agency UNION uses this to draw attention to the fact that youth mental illness often goes untreated, leading suicide to be the number two cause of death among teens in their new spot for Partners for Mental Health, a national, charitable organization aimed at transforming how Canadians think about and support mental illness.

The poignant spot, part of the “Right By You” campaign, begins with a series of door slams, followed by the text, “Living with a teen is hard.” We then see the mother of the first girl slam the door to her daughter’s room and break down in tears. The text, “Living without one is harder” fills in the (really fucking depressing) context. The spot then informs the viewer that “Suicide is the #1 cause of non-accidental death among youth” before calling on viewers to sign a petition encouraging governments to change the way they support and fund youth mental health.

To me, the most effective PSAs are simple, yet direct: they don’t hit you over the head with statistics or over-dramatized reenactments of tragic events. This spot certainly fits the bill. They wait until the end to mention that suicide is the number one cause of non-accidental death among youth, and it’s all the more affecting for having been tied to our emotions. It also manages to warn parents that seemingly normal youth angst can be a sign of an underlying issue without being preachy or overly alarmist about it. It’s easy to ignore issues like this, because they’re so hard to think about, but without changes they’re never going to improve. Kudos to UNION for a well thought out strategy to bring this often-overlooked issue to light.