WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.
And across all age groups, males account for seven out of 10 suicides. The design talents of local college graduates are now helping to raise awareness. Some Penn College graduates helped create suicide prevention designs that are now showing up on billboards and in businesses across the Williamsport area.
The 2019 graphic design graduating class of Pennsylvania College of Technology was tasked with a project that didn’t come easy. The students were approached by a client in need of ads for a suicide prevention campaign.
“I think graphic design is oftentimes thought of as marketing things and selling stuff and selling ideas and communication but this was a nice opportunity to use graphic design for good,” Nick Stephenson, instructor of graphic design said.
The suicide prevention campaign is aimed at educating working-aged men, 25 to 60 years old. Once the designs were completed, a select few were chosen to be featured on billboards across Williamsport, as well as on pamphlets that are distributed to local businesses and organizations.
“My idea was I wanted to really target the market of 30 to 65-year-old men that worked in factories because there’s a lot of factories in the Williamsport and Lycoming area so my idea was to turn the warning signs of suicide into actual warning signs that you would see in factories,” graduate Emily Kahler said.
“My design was focused around the idea of an instructional manual for like putting together furniture. It was just kind of like some kind of thing that you can compare mental health to for men in that age group that they don’t follow professional help, they don’t follow instructions,” graduate Luke Bierly said.
According to suicide prevention through information, referral, intervention and training coalition, men die by suicide nearly four times more than women with the highest rates among middle-aged white men. These graduates say they’re grateful to be able to help raise awareness and put an end to the statistic.
“It’s a big thing that’s affecting our population that we need to be aware of. If you’re not making a bold statement with some kind of design, with some kind of phrase or anything like that, you’re really not driving it home to people who need to be aware of that kind of stuff,” Bierly said.
“So to know that we were specifically speaking to them versus like a wider audience was what we thought was pretty important,” Kahler said.
The current graphic design students at Penn College are no longer working on this campaign but Stephenson says he anticipates working on a suicide prevention project in the future.