The episodes of “My Life Is Worth Saving” stream for free on YouTube.
Using cartoons to try to help prevent suicide seems rather odd, at least at first glance. Even more bizarre? The man who ran the studio that gave birth to “The Simpsons” and “The Rugrats” teamed up with a team of Utahns to create an animated series designed to provide support, get people talking and, ultimately, prevent suicides among adolescents.
Strange, perhaps. But it’s true – and it’s really necessary.
“For the past 12 years, I’ve tried using animation as a vehicle to solve really tough problems,” said Terry Thoren, a longtime Hollywood animation executive. “We need to get people talking. And so the idea behind this animation is as follows.
Thoren was the CEO of Klasky-Csupo from 1994 to 2006, when he released “The Simpsons”, “The Rugrats”, “Wild Thornberries” and other shows that captured the imaginations of generations of young people. Now he and his current company, Wonder Media, hope to do the same with “My Life Is Worth Living,” a series of animated shorts released for free on YouTube.
“We know that we cannot solve the problems on our own,” he said. “But we have to talk about it. We must lift the taboo.
His efforts were greatly stimulated by the Cook Center for Human Connections in Utah, founded and funded by doTerra co-founders Greg and Julie Cook. According to the CEO of the center, Anne Brown, the Cooks’ five children “had friends or classmates who had attempted suicide or had committed suicide – including one who was just 11 years old. And they thought, here’s this huge problem going on in Utah, yet it’s the hardest place to get funds. And that’s really what pushed them to this cause.
In Utah, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 24. (Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in this age group, after “accidental injuries”.)
“And it’s so unnecessary,” Brown said. “If we can have conversations and… it becomes normal to ask for help” then it will not be “something taboo”.
It turns out that Thoren and Brown had been friends for several years, and the cooks quickly got on board when Brown introduced them to the “My Life Is Worth Living” project. Thoren had spent roughly $ 250,000 on pre-production, and the Cook Center invested $ 2 million to complete the animation and for the distribution.
After talking with other streaming outlets, it’s on YouTube as it can be viewed there for free – at YouTube.com/MyLifeisWorthLiving.
There are a total of 20 episodes that will roll out over the next few months, each of approximately 4 minutes.
“We put them in bite-sized pieces,” Thoren said. “We know we would fail if we put out 20-minute episodes.”
The series covers five different story arcs in four episodes, and the episodes are linked by the presence of a young therapist, a YouTuber whose company is called My Life Is Worth Living – sort of a series within a series. The episodes deal with depression, trauma, sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and substance abuse, and the goal is to get kids watching with their parents – a great way to gently tackle difficult topics about suicide and spark conversations.
The creators want to be clear: this is not just a project for so-called “troubled adolescents”. It is an effort to help all families on an issue that too often remains invisible and under-discussed. It’s an appropriate visualization for children and teens, who will learn without feeling like the message is hitting their heads.
Children, teens, and adults can all learn to spot the warning signs in people they know – and what to do when they do to help.
“My Life” is already available in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese, with more languages to come. “No episode is the end of the conversation,” Thoren said.
And that’s the point: if we just start talking about our feelings, depression and suicide, and suicide prevention, children and adults will be better prepared to offer help when people have it. Not needed anymore.