Vice confronts student suicide risk on popular YouTube channel

McCann created campaign for College Music with input from Samaritans.

YouTube music channel College Music has partnered Vice Media to raise awareness of stress, depression and suicidal thoughts among students.

The campaign, "Lo-Fi beats suicide", is based around a popular YouTube live stream that ordinarily features an infinite loop of an animé character called Study Girl. She is seen studying, accompanied by downbeat, lo-fi hip-hop music – a genre sometimes dubbed lo-fi beats.

When viewers visit the stream now, however, the character is absent and viewers are invited to follow a link to another video. It is set in the same location and features Study Girl, but she appears distressed, overwhelmed by stress and considers taking her own life.

It is the first time the loop of the original video has been broken after more than 19,000 hours of streaming.

The campaign was created by McCann London and is supported by Vice. McCann consulted with Samaritans on the development of Study Girl’s story.

A link on the new video takes readers through to a curated selection of Vice’s mental-health editorial coverage, offering resources that can provide guidance, advice and support.

Meanwhile, Vice is holding a student-focused mental-health takeover on its Snapchat Discover channel, which attracts a core audience of young people mainly aged 13-24.

The campaign was conceived after College Music noticed a growing trend of its live viewers using the YouTube chat box to talk about how stressed or depressed they are feeling or, in some cases, how they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Laurence Thomson, chief creative officer at McCann UK, said: "This is not a campaign we entered into lightly – suicide and mental health are very complex and sensitive issues that need to be dealt with carefully in any medium.

"But with our ability to use creativity to make a difference, we saw this as an opportunity to do good. If students are using these lo-fi channels as chat forums to talk about suicide and stress – then this seemed like the perfect place to offer support."

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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