The awkward silence—something we avoid with such panic, we’re even willing to talk non-stop about the weather to make it go away. It can be painful. But a new series of PSAs aimed at suicide prevention and mental health tells us that same awkward silence can be a force for good.
Here, the uncomfortable gap in conversation is personified by a dude in a brown turtleneck. Despite the lighthearted approach, the campaign is serious about letting people know that awkward silence is an opportunity to start a more meaningful conversation.
Created by The Ad Council and agency Droga5, along with The Jed Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the campaign also enlisted a handful of YouTube creators like Liza Koshy, Hannah Hart, Markiplier, and Tyler Posey. They teamed up on their own video, in addition to making individual spots in which they share their own stories of mental health and the importance of talking about it.
On the campaign’s site Seize the Awkward, you can find all the videos as well as tips like signs to watch for and ideas on how to break that awkward silence.
The Ad Council’s head of campaign development Heidi Arthur says both The Jed Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention came to them with this idea of getting friends to be the ones who step up and help the people they care about who are struggling with mental health. “We spent time talking to young adults to figure out how we could do that,” says Arthur. “And what we heard was, they think now is the time to be upfront about mental health, to chip away at the stigma, and they’re very open to having these conversations, but it’s hard. There’s a lot of awkwardness around how to do it. So the idea was to take that awkward silence and turn it into a good thing. Because it might be awkward at first, but can turn into something very helpful and meaningful.”
The campaign has also partnered with platforms like Reddit, Wattpad, and Instagram to get the word out.