CAMH launches timely suicide prevention campaign

Who: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Toronto), with Camp Jefferson for creative, Jungle Media for media, Narrative for earned media and influencer, and Scouts Honour for production.

What: “Not today,” a multifaceted suicide prevention campaign—the largest ever campaign from CAMH.

When & Where: It launched on Thursday, World Suicide Prevention Day, and will run across TV, online (digital and social) as well as out-of-home, with a focus on the Greater Toronto Area.

Why: Because nearly 11 Canadians die from suicide every day (4,000 people a year). People struggling with mental illness and suicidal ideation need hope, their loved ones need support, and CAMH needs donations to develop new treatments to prevent more suicides.

The campaign, which addresses each of those challenges, took more than a year to develop. “You are trying to go to market with a campaign built around the most difficult subject matter in health,” said Ian Barr, vice-president and director of strategy for Camp Jefferson.

The challenge is having the kind of open conversation about suicide needed to reverse the stigma, while also understanding that the subject is painfully personal for many people. Consequently, all the messaging and creative had to be very carefully reviewed and vetted by medical professionals and communities of people who have been hurt by suicide, or from groups at higher risk. “You have to balance the helping while trying not to harm in a very respectful and compassionate way,” said Barr.

How: The core message of the campaign is about the critical importance of making more time for those with mental illness and struggling with thoughts of suicide: “Not suicide. Not today.” The creative combines numbers illustrating the size of the problem with personal stories from those fighting against suicide while struggling with mental illness and depression.

“This work is designed to get people to care about the subject matter through emotion and hope, and through statistics that [show] just how pervasive it is and how it touches all members of society,” said Barr.

It includes a 60-second TV ad that shows a man alone at a kitchen table, staring blankly into space before a handful of people appear around him. “Not today,” says the first, followed by other simple lines of encouragement and support. “When we all say ‘Not Today’ together, it’s easier to say it when we’re alone.” reads the copy, before revealing the man is alone again but now able to say “Not Today.”

“It’s really meant to be a reminder that [those struggling with mental illness] are not alone, there is a support group around you, there is hope. Hope is a big theme you’ll see,” said Barr. 

The power of “Not Suicide. Not Today”: “That phrase has been vetted by clinicians and aligned with medical best practices, [it’s] a positive affirmation someone who is battling mental illness can say to themselves on a daily basis to help them get through whatever struggle they are facing,” said Barr. “But it is also an action that anyone can take: you can say not suicide, not today by donating to CAMH and giving them time to treat and heal people living with mental illness.”

The importance of more time: “The one thing people can do to help solve this is give people more time to heal, more time for researchers to find cures, more time so we can keep having these conversations to  reverse the stigma,” said Barr.  

“Suicide steals time. Time allows people to get the help they need to heal and to hold hope for a better tomorrow,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, CAMH president and CEO. “Time gives us the opportunity to offer care and supports for those facing suicide, and time gives our researchers the chance to discover new treatments for mental illness.”

And we quote: “There is a lot of work to be done.. and it is not going to be done with a short campaign. It is a journey, but this is a start.” — Ian Barr, vice-president and director of strategy, Camp Jefferson

David Brown