You Only Die Once: the success of #YODO

Categories: Community Engagement.

The Dying Matters Coalition was set up by the National Council for Palliative Care in 2009 to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement.

Our annual awareness week is a key component of our work, and has gone from strength to strength with each passing year. This year’s awareness week, which ran from 12-18 May, was our most successful yet in terms of media attention, due, in no small part, to its powerful theme of You Only Die Once, or, as it is known in the Twittersphere, #YODO.

#YODO grabbed public attention in what was, for us, an unprecedented way.

On the first day of our awareness week it was tweeted nearly 3,000 times, and it went on to be mentioned around 10,000 times over the course of the week. As a hashtag it gained international traction, popping up in tweets citing our awareness week from America to Australia.

‘A very powerful message’

The hashtag #YODO was a very simple way to get a very powerful message across: you only die once, and if you don’t make your wishes known about what you want for the end of your life you may not get the care you want, the death you would have wished for or the legacy you would have liked.

Because of its obvious resonance with #YOLO – you only live once – it has a quirky, almost humourous appeal which helps people feel more comfortable about discussing dying and death.

Even though someone dies in the UK every minute, we know from our research that many of us don’t like talking about dying, and #YODO plays a huge part in helping to facilitate these vital conversations.  

This year’s Dying Matters awareness week may be over, but #YODO lives on, not just through our work but in the work of other organisations involved in end of life, including internationally: it’s great to see it being widely used during the current National Palliative Care Week in Australia.

And while we can’t claim to have invented the phrase, we’re delighted that our efforts have brought it to such public prominence and, as a result, helped people become more willing to think about and discuss what they want at the end of life.

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