By Jennifer Dee, VP, director of integrated production, at McCann Torre Lazur.



In January 2013, after a long struggle with severe depression, my boyfriend took his own life.

When someone you love commits suicide, there’s no handbook, no rules, no guidance for how to handle it. No one explains how to deal with the guilt, the grief, the questions. Nobody tells you how to sift through the darkness and come out on the other side. For months afterward, I didn’t want to do anything but lay in a fetal position for the rest of my life.

But as time passed – and it does, eventually – I knew I had to do something. Something to commemorate my boyfriend’s life and the lives he touched, something to try to prevent others from committing suicide or suffering through the aftershocks of a loved one doing so. I wanted to find a way to break down the silence and stigma that surrounds suicide. And I had an idea – to use social media to ask people to post images and videos showing that life is worth living. Luckily for me, the resources to build this project already existed – in the creative talent at my own workplace.

For the past 21 years I’ve worked at a healthcare communications agency called McCann Torre Lazur in Parsippany, N.J. My colleagues and I are experts in communicating health-related messages to physicians, nurses, and patients. As soon as they heard about it, my colleagues at MTL wanted to help realize my idea. I had people coming to me saying, ”I want to be on the team, my aunt killed herself three weeks ago,” or, “How can I help? My grandfather killed himself.” It was extraordinary to see how many of us had this connection to suicide, but because of the stigma surrounding it, we had never talked about it.

Our campaign against suicide began on World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, 2014 with the launch of the hashtag ‘#worthliving.’ With a single tweet, #worthliving quickly outstripped our expectations by generating more than 18 million social media impressions around the world, with individuals sharing personal images and comments to show why every day is worth living. The following year, for World Suicide Prevention Day 2015, we launched ‘#attemptlife,’ encouraging those who are suffering to share videos of themselves attempting life rather than suicide. The #attemptlife campaign, with support from the International Association for Suicide Prevention, has rolled up more than 10 million social media impressions so far.

This year we are taking on youth suicide – the third-leading cause of death among adolescents. We’ll be using the concept of “thought notes” – both virtual and actual orange sticky notes – which young people can use to start conversations about suicide and mental health. By using the orange sticky note as a visual vehicle to speak out for suicide awareness, our newest campaign will utilize digital and social media as well as face-to-face educational events to connect with young people. These additional aspects will encourage them to not only communicate openly about suicide, but to also recognize and respond to the five signs of potential suicide in friends and peers. A web landing page based on this idea ( soft-launched a few weeks ago, with integration to general social media sites coming later this month. Our goal is to break a Guinness World Record for the largest online album of handwritten notes. At the launch event on Saturday, September 17, Matt Nakoa, a well-known folk singer and musician, performed a song he wrote for the occasion, while audience members hand-wrote words of encouragement on orange sticky notes and posted them on a wall. Additionally, the team is working on partnerships with local New Jersey schools with the goal of creating face-to-face educational programs for students.

All we hope is to save one life.