Seize The Awkward Campaign Receives Large Donation
Donation to Support Digital-First PSA Campaign for Young Adults and Led by the Ad Council, JED and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
NEW YORK (November 8, 2018) – In memory of Keith Milano, who died by suicide in 2004, his family created the Keith Milano Memorial Fund at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This fund contributed a generous donation that was earmarked for the new Seize The Awkward public service campaign. Launched in January, this campaign is an effort to empower young adults to reach out to friends who may be at risk for suicide. The campaign was created in partnership by the Ad Council, The Jed Foundation (JED), and AFSP through the ad agency Droga5.
“Since losing Keith and sharing our story we have had so many people reach out for resources. In today’s digital age tweens and teens see and hear about suicide whether we address it with them or not. Parents and educators need to be able to communicate effectively that there is help, support and that asking for help is a sign of strength,” said Denise Sprung, suicide prevention advocate and resident of Smithtown, New York. “This is why we chose to allocate such a large amount from the Keith Milano Memorial Fund to the groundbreaking Seize The Awkward campaign. As a parent, I know how important it is to talk to your kid about their mental health and about suicide.”
Seize the Awkward encourages teens and young adults, particularly those ages 16-24, to create a safe space for their friends to open up about mental health challenges. The campaign personifies an awkward silence that can happen between friends before a conversation about mental health, through the character, Awkward Silence, portrayed by actor and Broadway star Gideon Glick. It shows viewers the opportunity that exists in recognizing something is wrong and breaking through an awkward silence between friends – and encourages them to use this moment to check in and ask about mental health.
Keith Milano grew up on Long Island where he attended Newfield High School. He went on to the University of Buffalo, and then to Stony Brook University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Geology. After graduation, he worked as a hydrogeologist for EnviroTrac. Denise Milano Sprung, Keith’s older sister by three years, also attended Newfield High School and the University of Buffalo. Denise and her husband Larry run the Keith Milano Memorial Fund in honor of her younger brother. The Sprung family also made a personal donation to Project 2025 and have been generous contributors to AFSP for many years.
The Keith Milano Memorial Fund was established to help raise awareness about the devastating deadly disease that is mental illness. Keith’s spirit and laughter is kept alive through our efforts to increase awareness about mental illness and to raise money for education and imperative research. Keith often struggled with society’s perception of mental illness. Our hope is that by having the strength to say that Keith was “Bipolar” we can strip away the stigma and help others to be more open about their disease.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.