It’s a shocking statistic to face, but according to the World Health Organisation, nearly 800,000 people die because of suicide each year. That equates to one person dying every 40 seconds and qualifies suicide as the No. 2 cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds worldwide. It’s for this reason that special events exist to spread awareness of this oft-ignored, difficult-to-approach issue, and social-media platforms have become regular tools or even collaborators.
For example, World Suicide Prevention Day took place yesterday (10 September), and both Instagram and Twitter launched schemes in accordance with it.
Twitter has two separate promotions this year. The first is a partnership with the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Twitter has arranged that when the hashtags #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, #SuicidePrevention, #WSPD, #WSPD2018, #世界預防自殺日, #自殺預防, #世界自杀预防日, and #自杀预防 are used between 7 and 16 of September, a special emoji will appear: an orange ribbon, the international symbol of World Suicide Prevention Day.
To dip a toe into cynicism, these kinds of one-off digital accessories always feel awkwardly gimmicky, in that they’re turning a serious issue into a collectable digital accessory that some users use for personal virtue branding. Though the truth holds out that motives are inconsequential as long as the word gets out.
The other Twitter promotion #thereishelp is a much more hands-on tool for assisting with the issue, created in partnership with the Samaritans. A notification service, it connects potentially vulnerable users to services that can help them. When someone uses the Twitter search tool, it will recognise if key phrases associated with suicide or self-harm are being used. It will then display a notification at the top of the result list, providing contact details for their local branch of the Samaritans and directing the user to reach out if they are in need of support.
Though Twitter is probably one of the less likely platforms someone would use to search for information during a crisis, it is undeniable that this is a positive proactive behaviour for a brand to take on this matter. The function is available for users in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and the US, and it is launching in Brazil, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Spain and Australia.
The Samaritans are also involved with an outreach promotion on Instagram, more specifically the Samaritans of Singapore. SOS has partnered with TBWA Singapore to launch #ThroughTheNight on the platform. The social-media campaign is taking place for the duration of Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (10 through 16 September) and is focused on providing comfort and conversation during the darkest period of the night for many—the proverbial 'hour of the wolf' between midnight and 3 am. SOS has enlisted musicians, artists and youth influencers to hold live sessions on their channels during this timeframe. Users will supposedly use the hashtag to connect with each other for support.
The promotion is great from a style perspective. It embraces youth culture and understands the hardest period of the day for depressives is often the night. However, it has a slightly limited range in its capped length and actual potential for inspiring change.
But again, any consideration for this important issue is welcome. Depression and suicide thrive when people try to face them alone. So any brand or agency that assists gets a thumbs up from Ad Nut.
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