A simple story that changes lives

Sycamores spreads the word about 988

Los Angeles County, the second most populous metro in the U.S., had a problem. People experiencing a mental health crisis found themselves with limited options for appropriate help and support. To supplement its 988 Mental Health Crisis Line, the county contracted with Sycamores, a behavioral health services provider with a 100-plus year history in the LA area, to create and operate the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team system.

Now, instead of LA Metro callers relying solely on 911 for a police response during a mental health crisis, they could call 988 for a team of mental health professionals, ready to help either remotely or in person. Yet too many were still unaware of the 988 resource, which presented Sycamores with a challenge: how to let people know, and more importantly, understand the process? They contracted with Russell Herder, and we recognized an important opportunity for video storytelling.

Russell Herder Account Supervisor Erin Vasseur said the goal from the outset was to make the video relatable to the broadest group of people possible – and to achieve this, the team chose to use a highly stylized animation approach that would make it easier for anyone from any background to identify with the message.

Russell Herder’s creative team began with a simple question: “In a mental health crisis, what if calling 911 doesn’t bring the help you need?” Care was taken to position 988 (and MCOT) as an alternative to the 911 dispatch system, not a competitor. “Given the complexity of the subject, we needed to deliver a simple, focused message,” said Brian Herder, RH Chief Creative Officer. The team settled upon telling “The Story of 988”, walking viewers through the needs and benefits of the system with a sensitive and positive tone.

As a starting point, Russell Herder and animation studio partner, Pixel Farm, used a charming storybook aesthetic, with basic, amorphous lines that turn into recognizable objects. The script reflected this simplicity, with all the elements merging together for a visually compelling message.

Vasseur said Sycamores was pleased with the end product because it effectively conveys their identity and what they do. “They loved it,” she said, “for all the reasons we loved it – they loved that it was so inclusive, that it was non-threatening and helpful, they loved the possibilities of it.”

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