Join us in September in recognition of
As we look to Suicide Prevention Month (September) and Suicide Prevention Week (9/5-9/11), the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance)—the nation’s public-private partnership with 250+ partner organizations—hopes to once again unite the field to push out messages about the important role we all play in being there for others. It's important that our field works together to develop and promote consistent messages of hope and help-seeking—especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we've done in years' past, the Action Alliance will send a series of e-blasts in the coming months to help equip our partners with the necessary resources and tools to plan for and participate in this important national conversation in September and beyond. 
Developing Effective and Safe Messaging
for Suicide Prevention Month
How we publicly communicate and talk about suicide can have either negative or positive impacts on help-seeking behaviors. In fact, research has found that certain types of public messaging about suicide can increase risk among vulnerable individuals. On the other hand, communications can also be a powerful tool to promote resiliency, encourage help-seeking, and highlight successful prevention efforts.

The Action Alliance's Framework for Successful Messaging, highlighted during the webinar Developing and Delivering Effective Suicide Prevention Messaging: We All Play A Role, outlines the key components to consider when messaging to the public about suicide, including: identifying a strategy, ensuring safety, conveying a positive narrative, and following applicable guidelines.

The strategy component refers to the upfront thinking and planning that is done to help messages succeed and resonate with people. Some best practices when it comes to the strategy include:
  • Consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your message (e.g., who is my audience? what is my goal?).
  • Don’t start with a particular channel or message in mind.
  • Shift from ‘communicating for awareness’ to ‘communicating for action’ (e.g. include action steps your audience can take as a result of your message).
The safety component focuses on how to avoid potentially harmful messages and content. When it comes to safety, some best practices include:

  • Screen content before sharing it.
  • Be consistent in keeping safety in mind.
  • Be mindful of safety when sharing stories about individual suicide attempts or deaths.
  • Accurately convey suicide as a complex issue with no single cause (e.g., avoid messaging that implies there was a single cause, like bullying or PTSD, behind a suicide).
  • Highlight solutions, rather than problems.
  • Make sure data, if used, are strategic, safe, and prevention-focused (e.g., the number of people who sought help, or the number of people who reached out to support someone).
  • Use non-stigmatizing language (e.g., died by suicide instead of committed suicide).
Positive Narrative
The positive narrative component is focused on increasing the frequency of public messaging that promotes the positive aspects of suicide prevention. Some best practices for following a positive narrative include:
  • Highlight actions that people can take to help prevent suicide (e.g., how people can #BeThere for someone who is struggling).
  • Reinforce that prevention works.
  • Convey that resiliency is possible.
  • Share that effective programs and services exist, and help is available.
  • Avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes or misconceptions (e.g. avoid messages that focus on stigma, and instead share messages of hope and resiliency).

Once your strategy is developed, it’s important to follow best practice guidelines. There are guidelines available for a variety of channels, settings, populations, and topics, which can be found here.

As you continue planning for Suicide Prevention Month (#SPM21) this September, utilize the Framework for Successful Messaging to ensure your messaging aligns with these evidence-based best practices and promotes hope, help-seeking, and resiliency.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is housed at the Education Development Center.