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Instagram and TikTok Stars Join Seize the Awkward to Help Young Adults Maneuver Life Changes and the Continued Fallout of COVID-19

14 Sep 2021 — 5 min read

By AFSP

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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Announces New Program to Support People Caring for Others at Risk of Suicide

Campaign taps creators Anna Wannquist, Donovan Beck, Jamie Grace, Maleah Whitten, Phillip Vu, Pink Sweat$, Sedona Prince, and Tessa Violet to encourage friends to start and continue conversations about mental health this September

NEW YORK, NY, September 9, 2021 – In support of National Suicide Prevention Month, World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th), and as many young adults re-enter the classroom and workplace, Seize the Awkward is launching a partnership initiative to equip young people with the resources and encouragement to reach out to a friend about mental health. A joint effort between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Jed Foundation (JED), the Ad Council, and creative agency Droga5, the national award-winning campaign informs teens and young adults of the importance of supporting the mental well-being of themselves and their friends.

Throughout the past year, the pandemic has been linked to significant mental health challenges among young adults. According to a 2020 American Psychological Association survey, 34% of respondents between the ages of 18-23 reported that their mental health had worsened compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic. This percentage was highest among 18-23-year-olds, across all other age groups surveyed.[1] Furthermore, a June 2020 CDC survey also found that younger U.S. adults reported worse mental health outcomes and increased substance abuse during the pandemic.[2]

Seize the Awkward will engage creators throughout the month of September to develop and share campaign-oriented content and messaging across their social media platforms. Creators will provide tips to help 16-24-year-olds identify important signs to help a friend who may be struggling, offer ways to reach out and start a conversation, and tools to follow up.

“The pandemic continues to place an immense strain on the mental health and well-being of many, especially young adults. Normalizing mental health conversations and offering young people tangible support begins with an open and transparent dialogue,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council. “We’re excited to partner with such talented creators who are eagerly leveraging their voices to start the conversation.”

Young adulthood is a critical time in a person’s life that may bring forth numerous life changes ultimately causing great amounts of stress. From leaving high school or beginning college, moving away from home, or entering the workplace, it’s a period where mental health struggles frequently emerge. As both the physical and economic fallout of COVID-19 continues to impact many – including young people who may be facing hardships such as unemployment – increased feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear during this time of transition are likely significant.

“As the public health crisis continues, it’s sustained a level of uncertainty, distress, and anxiety for many – all of which can have lasting effects on mental health and wellness,” said Stephanie Rogers, senior VP, communications & marketing at AFSP. “We’re honored to work alongside Instagram and TikTok influencers and creators and encourage everyone to reach out to the young adults in their lives as they navigate this unprecedented time.”

Spanning the entire month Anna Wannquist, Donovan Beck, Jamie Grace, Maleah Whitten, Phillip Vu, Pink Sweat$, Sedona Prince, and Tessa Violet will create original content in support of Seize the Awkward on their channels.

"Over the past year and half, teens and young adults have experienced additional stressors and mental health challenges. As they now return to school, it is important that our schools and communities are prepared to help support their mental health," said John MacPhee, CEO of The Jed Foundation. "We're thrilled to be partnering with Instagram and TikTok stars on our Seize the Awkward campaign to help educate more young people around how to notice if a friend may be struggling and how to have conversations with each other about mental health."

During the month of September, the following partners will also provide significant exposure for Seize the Awkward on their platforms:

  • Initiative
    As part of IPG, Initiative, who has been working pro-bono on the campaign since its inception has conducted outreach to media partners relevant to the Seize the Awkward audience to amplify existing campaign assets through donated media support.
  • Instagram
    Through the duration of the month, Instagram will be providing the campaign with significant donated media support.
  • Snap Inc.
    Snapchat is supporting the campaign with significant media support, including a Seize the Awkward Snapchat filter.
  • TikTok
    The leading destination for short-form mobile video, TikTok is providing donated support to the campaign throughout September and amplifying Seize the Awkward video content on their in-app resource hub.

Since its launch in January 2018, Seize the Awkward has garnered 52M million video views and over 2.1M sessions on SeizeTheAwkward.org, where visitors can explore resources and tools to help them start a conversation with a friend around mental health. The campaign also received the 2020 Shorty Award for Best Use of a Spokesperson for its partnership with musician Billie Eilish. To learn more about the campaign, visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and @SeizeTheAwkward on Instagram. To get immediate, free support 24/7, call 1-800-273-8255 or text “SEIZE” to 741741.

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American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

The Jed Foundation (JED)

JED is a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation's teens and young adults. We're partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems. We're equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We're encouraging community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health. Learn more at jedfoundation.org.

Check out our programs including: JED Campus (jedcampus.org), Set to Go (settogo.org), ULifeline (ulifeline.org), Half of Us (halfofus.com) and Love is Louder (loveislouder.com).

Connect with JED: Email | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn

The Ad Council

The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation's most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.

The Ad Council's innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org, follow the Ad Council's communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.


[1] American Psychological Association (2020). Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. Available at: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/sia-mental-health-crisis.pdf

[2] CDC: Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24-30, 2020. Available at: cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

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