New research shows nearly half of college and high-school students feel increased anxiety about returning to campus, while a third report experiencing depression since the pandemic began.
Those findings are hardly surprising, and they underscore the need for heightened vigilance around mental health. Friends checking in on friends, experts say, can save lives, especially with suicide ranking as the second-leading cause of death among teens and young adults.
Against that backdrop, and timed to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Ad Council's "Seize the Awkward" campaign—devised with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Jed Foundation—ventures inside Guild Wars 2, the popular online roll-playing game from NCSOFT.
Now, through Sept. 29, the title's 11 million players can claim free "Seize the Awkward" T-shirts for their game characters. What's more, they are encouraged to chat frequently amongst themselves to foster well-being, and access mental-health resources if necessary.
This PSA hits some of the highlights:
Developed with creative shop Droga5, the work follows a similar integration from January.
"Through the initial phase of our partnership, we've seen how Guild Wars 2 players have embraced our messaging, and especially during these challenging times, it's important to highlight the ways meaningful connections can be through video games and other virtual channels," says Ad Council campaign director Hannah Strashun.
As part of the push, players are also invited to share messages of love and support on social using the #SeizeTheAwkward hashtag.
"Guild Wars 2 is built around the idea that encountering another player is an inherently positive experience, and that playing together enriches the game," says Katy Radelich, director of events and partnerships at NCSOFT. "Partnering with 'Seize the Awkward' was a great fit for us because it sets out to achieve those goals in the real world by encouraging people to forge deep bonds of friendship and support, to be there for one another in tough times, and to create a caring, close-knit community.
"With the world completely disrupted by the pandemic, massively multiplayer online games like ours have become an incredibly effective way to have fun safely in groups, stay in touch with friends and family, and maintain important social support networks," Radelich says.
Earlier in the Covid crisis, during Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the Ad Council and Droga5 dropped a memorable animated music video with Rapper Akinyemi about checking in with friends.