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Working with The Archdiocese of Edmonton to Prevent Suicide

In the Summer of 2015 the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton reached out to us to see if we could help them with a social media campaign focused on suicide prevention in Canada, and especially Alberta. They wanted to develop a social media campaign that would serve the general population, and we had worked with many Catholic organizations in the past in developing creative messaging so they tasked us with developing a strategy to approach this very important issue.

Why Did the Church Start a Suicide Prevention Campaign?

Mental illness dominates the conversation around suicide (and that’s important because it is a major factor), however; there are other contributors that we have a tougher time understanding and admitting as a society and this is where the Church can bring some insight. The Church’s teachings concerning faith, hope, and love as well as her social teachings about learning to serve the needs of others instead of focusing on self can be tangible contributors to positive mental, physical, and spiritual health. In light of the recent economic slowdown in Alberta, we’ve heard headlines describing a suicide rate increase of 30% in Alberta over the past year. It’s not likely that this is due to a 30% increase of mental illness, but more likely because of a circumstantial shift in the lives of many people who have lost hope.

Defining the Goals of the Campaign

After meeting with the Archbishop and the Archdiocesan staff, we outlined the goals of the campaign to include:

  • Embedding the problem of suicide in the collective consciousness of Albertans and Canadians.
  • Helping people realize that their happiness should not be dependant upon their circumstance.
  • Encouraging people to find ways to spread joy, especially by emphasizing the good we can do for others to help overcome the adversity they might be facing.
  • Affirming the dignity of every person. When people lose hope, maybe all they need to hear is that their life matters and that it has value and shouldn’t be discarded.

A Multi-Faceted Campaign Strategy

We proposed to the Archdiocese that since the campaign would be targeting a broad secular audience, the campaign should include a unique campaign name, branding, website, and video production that would be independent of the Archdiocese, especially for those who are wary of religious influence on matters such as this. The Campaign would also need a viral component to spread the message since the campaign would need to reach as many Canadians as possible.

Social Media Campaign Strategy

Working closely with the Archdiocesan staff, was designed the campaign to resemble a social movement which affirms the dignity of every living person. The name we proposed was ‘ELM’ which is an acronym that stands for Every Life Matters. It was short and easy to use as a hashtag for social media, and catchy yet broadly appealing. It also contains strong symbolism related to the message of the campaign. Elm trees are large which provides a sense of strength and courage. Additionally, a tree is a symbol for life as well as a symbol for society because we are all members connected through the branches and the source of life.

The Challenge to Commit Life

The Commit Life Campaign Video played a crucial role in driving the social media aspect of the campaign, as well include the campaigns message in an easy to understand and compelling format. The perfect candidate for the video would be able to tell their personal story of how they have faced adversity and challenges in their lives with a sense of hope because they choose to commit life and see a silver lining in their life’s circumstances. To find this person we worked within our personal networks to identify possible candidates for the video. After considering several options, we decided that Lisa’s story was a perfect example of someone who chooses to Commit Life. We then included a challenge at the end of the video for others to tell their story about how they choose to #commitlife and to tag others who have been an inspiration to them.

ELM Website

We created a website called commitlife.com that would act as the central hub for the campaign where people could read more about the campaign, watch other people’s stories, and find out how they could get involved. As the Campaign develops over the course of the year, we would add more content and stories to the site that we could then post to the various social media platforms.