Embracing an Awkward Moment Can Save a Life, Say Droga5’s Suicide Prevention Ads

A fun yet powerful campaign for the Ad Council

The Ad Council

An awkward silence among friends isn’t just a moment to gloss past. It could be an opportunity to save the life of someone you care about, says a new PSA.

It’s part of a lighthearted but powerful new campaign aimed at helping preventing suicides—and promoting mental health—among teens and young adults. Titled “Seize the Awkward,” the platform is a sweeping effort from The Ad Council, The Jed Foundation, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Droga5.

In the centerpiece 1:20 spot, two teenage girls sit on a couch, shuffling. A clock ticks in the background. One seems about to say something, but stops after struggling.

A man in a brown turtleneck, played by Broadway star Gideon Glick, pops up from out of the cushions between them. “Awkward,” he says, beaming a smile, before proceeding to insert himself into a half dozen other private but off-kilter moments—between a couple in bed, and two football players in the bathroom, and two buddies in a hot tub, and two people in the midst of an unsuccessful prom invitation.

The point of the montage: These are all chances for young folks to check in with their pals and lovers, to make sure that they’re doing OK, and that whatever precipitated the awkward silence isn’t part of a bigger, deeper problem. The actors are happy to demonstrate some ways into what might be a difficult conversation.

Glick, awkwardness personified, is equally pleased to explain why it matters. “Starting the conversation now could stop something much worse from happening later on,” he says.

Additional videos offer more specific pointers—on how to start the conversation (“Just Ask”), how to continue it (“Just Listen”), and how to know if you should reach out in the first place (“The Signs”).

In a further, deeper series of clips, young celebrities including Tyler Posey of MTV’s Teen Wolf, YouTuber Remi Cruz, Liza Koshy of Hulu’s Freakish and Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen, all open up about their own personal experiences with depression and anxiety, as well as how they and their friends help each other navigate their darker moments. (Other personalities featured in the series include Markiplier, Meredith Foster, Orion Carloto, Shannon Beveridge and Tyler Oakley.)

Aimed at audiences aged 16-24, the campaign is receiving support from media partners including BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube, as well as textbook rental company Chegg, outdoor ad firm Colossal Media, and story-sharing platform Wattpad.

IPG media agency Initiative and NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars are also participating. Artists including Baron Von Fancy, Jeremyville, Saša Ostoja, Iain Burke and Franz Lang have also created works around the campaign theme, “Seize the Awkward,” that will appear on posters on college campuses and on social media.

A dedicated website, meanwhile, acts as a hub for the campaign, walking viewers through the videos and offering illustrations on the same topics—when and how to approach friends—as well as how to go about bringing in extra help from, say, a parent or teacher, and what to do in an emergency (call 911) or crisis (call the 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

The campaign’s creators emphasize its focus on providing young people with the tools and language to take action in such critical moments, and to open lines of communication around what remains a largely stigmatized subject. While it may be a lot to ask of teens to step out of themselves long enough to handle such scenarios with the necessary care, the videos—especially the celebrity confessionals—are packed with useful anecdotes and insights for anyone willing and able to listen.

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