ST. LOUIS, APRIL 20, 2017 – Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. And 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.1 To reduce these startling statistics, it’s imperative to eliminate the stigma of mental illness and start the conversation that could save a life.
Project Wake Up, a federal and Missouri state 501(c)3, is working to eradicate the stigmas of mental health and suicide. The organization was started by Alex Lindley in September 2014 after he delivered a eulogy at the funeral of his close friend, Ryan Candice, a University of Missouri student who took his own life that same year. Candice was the second friend Lindley lost to suicide.
Today, Project Wake Up launched a brand new commercial to create awareness around the current climate of mental health in the United States. The spot depicts a high school student, David, who goes through his day with a large wound on his side. The wound, completely unnoticed by David’s family, peers and even the school nurse, is later revealed to be representative of David’s struggles with mental illness, demonstrating that mental health issues often go unseen before it’s too late.
“Nobody just wakes up one day and decides they want to have a mental illness,” said Lindley, founder of Project Wake Up. “The only difference between a physical injury and mental illness is the ability for people to actually see an injury. If we start perceiving mental health in a different light, we can shift the conversation and those struggling can begin to receive proper treatment.”
The commercial is not the first endeavor that Project Wake Up has created to increase awareness. Two years ago, the organization started its journey with this 13-minute short that shed light on the impact suicide has on loved ones. “To my knowledge, Wake Up is the only mental health organization to tackle the issue from both a documentary and drama standpoint,” Lindley said. “With our initial 13-minute teaser, we proved that we have the ability to do something special. This commercial solidifies that and shows we have the knowledge to talk about mental health from a wide range of angles.”
Project Wake Up intends to continue this important conversation by creating a documentary that dives deeper into the effects of mental illness and suicide. Earlier in April, Wake Up held their second annual silent auction and trivia night and raised an additional $67,000 towards this endeavor. They now plan to begin production on the documentary this winter.
“It would be irresponsible for us to not thoroughly study the many industries that have a hand in the current mental health climate before moving forward,” said Danny Kerth, vice president of Project Wake Up. “We constantly remind ourselves we only have one shot at doing this, so let’s make sure we do it in a way that has a true, lasting impact on everyone affected, as well as those who determine how mental health is treated.”
Rodgers Townsend, an advertising agency in St. Louis, developed and created the commercial. Nate Townsend, a director/editor at Rodgers Townsend, is the director of Wake Up’s 13-minute short, the commercial and the upcoming documentary.
“I’ve seen PSAs and spots that cover mental health in the past, but this takes the conversation to a whole new level,” Townsend said. “Too many families and friends have experienced the harsh realities of suicide, but things still aren’t changing. That’s why this piece is so gripping and real; like the rest of Project Wake Up’s work, it’s rooted in the experiences of the people who are a part of the organization.”
Michael McCormick, chief creative officer at Rodgers Townsend, said, “In many ways, the era of social media has given us more ways to disguise how we really feel about ourselves. We form surface-level social connections. With this film, we are proud to put something out into the world that starts a deeper conversation. Where we can look one another in the eye and really, truly ask ‘how are you doing? I want to know.”
Suicide and mental illness are topics no one wants to talk about—but they need to. It’s time to start the conversation. Visit www.projectwakeup.org and donate today.
About Project Wake Up
Project Wake Up is a nonprofit mental health organization created to expose and eradicate the stigmas behind mental health and suicide. Created in 2014 after the loss of two friends to suicide at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Wake Up aims to change the tone of the conversation around mental health through a feature-length documentary that will highlight inadequacies in treatment, funding and overall perception of the issue.
Project Wake Up is a federally recognized 501(c)3 and is also registered in Missouri. To learn more, visit ProjectWakeUp.org or their Facebook page at facebook.com/ProjectWakeUpOfficial.
About Rodgers Townsend
Rodgers Townsend is a St. Louis‐based integrated communications agency, expert at helping marketers achieve market share that far exceeds their share of voice. RT’s services are holistic in nature and tailored to meet each client’s need, with specialists in strategy and brand development; digital, traditional advertising and direct marketing; social media strategy and management; brand identity, sales support and employee engagement.
Rodgers Townsend clients include: AT&T, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 39° North, Enterprise Rent‐A‐Car, Great Circle, The Hartford, LouFest, Luxco Spirits, Mayflower and United Van Lines, Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Saint Louis University, Scottrade and Spectrum Home and Garden and Pet Brands. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, RT is part of the Omnicom Global Agency Network. To learn more, visit RodgersTownsend.com.
1 – Statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov.