The Last Photo is a new UK-wide campaign from suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), created with adam&eveDDB in London, which aims to offer practical advice on what suicidal behaviour might look like and how to help loved ones you might be worried about.
The campaign also aims to redress the ‘image’ of suicide that we might hold in our minds, of someone who is outwardly depressed, reclusive and sad. As the simple but hugely powerful campaign shows, this is often not the case, and instead those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts might in fact appear happy and successful.
To do this, CALM and adam&eveDDB have created an installation of photos of smiling people, that is displayed in an outdoor exhibition on the South Bank in London. The photos have been on display since Monday but today it is revealed that they are among the last images taken of people who went on to die by suicide.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 90-second TV commercial, which launches on ITV’s This Morning today, with the TV show supporting the initiative. The spot features home video footage that similarly shows seemingly happy people enjoying life, playing with children and making jokes, before it is revealed at the end that soon after the imagery was shot, they died by suicide. A broader integrated campaign will also appear in print and social, with CALM’s ambassadors, brands and partners delivering wider content.
The new campaign follows Project 84, a major initiative launched by CALM in 2018 which saw a sculptural installation of men who had died by suicide installed on top of the old ITV building in the South Bank. This campaign aimed to highlight the shocking number of men who take their own lives each week.
When the charity launched, CALM’s work was initially focused on men, who are more likely to die by suicide, though it is now is extended to all genders and this campaign wants to raise awareness of the increase in death by suicide in the past four years. Statistics now show that on average 125 people die per week by suicide, 94 of which are men.
The danger with statistics is we can become immune to the reality of the lives that lie behind them, and the purpose of Project 94 was to find a way of bringing the numbers to life for people and show the amount of loss that is taking place. With The Last Photo, the mission goes to a deeper level – by showing images of people in ordinary, everyday settings, seemingly cheerful and happy, the campaign brings home the reality that this could happen to any family, and awareness of this can be key to prevention.
Accompanying the imagery in The Last Photo are audio interviews with the families affected that are hosted online, where they talk about the shock of their loss. The charity kept very close contact with the families of those featured throughout, and worked with them to make sure they were fully comfortable about how their loved ones were included in the campaign. “The duty of care was a massively important thing for us,” says CALM CMO Matthew Jennings.
“Obviously asking people to share photos or footage of a loved one could be quite triggering, we wanted to make sure we weren’t creating any negative impact on those families … we made sure throughout the entire process it was very personalised to the individual, we didn’t go en masse, it was very much based on each family, each case, each story we wanted to tell.”
Key to the campaign is practical advice to help people recognise the signs of suicide and address the issue with their loved ones to help prevent it.
“Although not everybody’s experienced suicide, I think you have an idea in your head about what this person must appear like – they’re probably reclusive, they’re probably not going out as much .. the reality is that’s not always the case,” says adam&eveDDB ECD Ant Nelson. “This is the strongest thing with the voice recordings of the families that say ‘I just didn’t see it’… This is something we just have to tell people, that sometimes there are no signs … we just need to keep checking on people.”
CCO: Richard Brim
ECDs: Ant Nelson, Mike Sutherland
Creatives: Andy Clough, Richard McGrann
Director: Max Fisher
Exhibitions Design Director: Ben Kearns
Digital designers: Mauricio Brandt (C&A), Sam Butler (C&A)