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JED is excited to announce the launch of our new campaign, Seize the Awkward, in partnership with Ad Council and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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Learn more about the campaign and how you can use an awkward silence to check in with a friend about how they’re feeling.

We know that when young people are in distress they commonly turn to friends for help and support. We decided to try to figure out how to use this idea more effectively. Working with Hope Lab, a social innovation research lab, we sought to find out how we could increase the chances that people would notice and support their friends who might be struggling.

The Background
Central to JED’s work is our Comprehensive Approach. This model highlights the importance of taking actions to identify those in a community who may be at risk and supporting efforts to increase help seeking among those in distress. We continuously seek to educate young people about mental health problems and how they can respond effectively to these problems when either they or a friend experience them. We needed answers to these questions:

  • What factors might increase or decrease the chances?
  • Were there things we could tell young people to make them more likely to feel good and confident about helping?

Working with HopeLab, a social innovation research lab, we sought strategies to increase the chances that people would notice and support their friends who might be struggling. As a result of conducting detailed interviews with teens and young adults, we learned that:

  • Young people want to help and support their friends when they sense that they are having a hard time.
  • However, they feel unsure, awkward or sometimes worried about how to speak about it and whether the conversation will be helpful.
  • Young people who had experienced mental health challenges and crises said that their friends being there in a supportive and caring way was helpful, and it did not matter too much what exactly they said or did.

In short, supportive connections simply helped people to feel better!

The Campaign
Next, we decided to put these principles into action.
We developed a plan with Ad Council and AFSP for a campaign targeting young adults, and with support from the cutting edge advertising agency Droga5, we have now launched Seize the Awkward.

Seize the Awkward focuses on the idea that it may feel a little difficult or awkward to speak to your friend about your concerns about them, but that if you accept the awkward feeling as natural, you can move past the awkwardness and start a helpful/meaningful conversation. This message is shared through a series of amusing videos in which “Awkward Silence” is portrayed as a character who helps direct people about how to start the conversation when they’re worried about a friend. The videos send viewers to a website where they can learn more. SeizeTheAwkward.org features:

  • videos depicting various scenarios among friends about how they can notice if their friend is distressed and what they can say and do
  • videos of various celebrities and social media influencers sharing their own experiences supporting friends; and
  • resources for those who want to learn more about mental health.

Seize the Awkward
We want to let everyone know that it is possible and pretty easy to help and that having the conversation in and of itself helps to support your friend and can keep them safer.
We’d love to hear from you about any thoughts or reactions you might have to this campaign. We hope you find it engaging and compelling and that you share it with your friends.

Learn how you can Seize the Awkward!