These examples are designed to bring the Framework for Successful Messaging to life and inspire you to think about the four elements of Strategy, Safety, Positive Narrative, and Guidelines when developing or choosing your own messages and materials.
- The examples are intended as inspiration; resist the urge to imitate or adopt others’ messaging without thinking through your own goals, audiences, and how it fits in with your overall efforts. In other words, always start with Strategy.
- While the Framework for Successful Messaging outlines core principles for developing messages that research tells us are more likely to be safe and effective, conducting evaluation is the only true test. Most of these examples weren’t evaluated, so unless the description mentions research outcomes, we simply don’t know whether or not they were effective in achieving their goals.
Organization shares a program success story on their blog: an employee who attended suicide prevention training vividly recounts how it enabled them to help their own child
What it is:
This blog post, which appeared on the Policy Research Associates (PRA) website, was written by a PRA employee who is also a parent. The parent describes attending a suicide prevention training and feeling interested but comfortably distant from the training content because it was aimed at a different professional audience. Nevertheless, the training successfully instilled the core message, which is to “ask” if you suspect someone is considering suicide. The post describes the parent’s surprise and gratitude at later noticing signs of depression in their own child and having the courage and knowledge to ask the questions and being able to get the right help.Tags: Blog, Personal stories, Promote an organization or program
This organization’s mission to “create positive social change” is front and center on its website. The blog post provides one small but vivid example of how PRA is achieving that aim. Sharing this programmatic success story serves multiple goals. The focus on positive outcomes positions the organization as effective and credible (an important message for funders, partners, potential program participants, and other stakeholders). It also supports broader prevention goals by illustrating how suicide prevention training can build the knowledge and skills needed to identify people at risk of suicide and connect them with services and supports. By describing the signs of depression and how to ask about suicide, the post incorporates information about when and how to act. It builds in motivation to learn these skills by highlighting the tangible benefits the parent received from the training. The post also prominently features the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline logo as a resource for immediate help. Having the parent tell their own story in the first person gives it authenticity and heart.
This post does not include any unsafe content, such as making suicidal behavior seem romantic or attractive or oversimplifying its causes.
This blog clearly conveys a Positive Narrative about suicide, specifically that there are actions people can take to help prevent it and that treatment can work. It also enables readers to picture vividly what the parent learned in the training and how the knowledge was translated into action.
Guideline Example relevant to this type of message:
For guidance on proactively and systematically gathering program success stories, see Impact and Value: Telling Your Program’s Story. While this resource was developed for oral health program managers, the content applies to any organization or program.
“When I asked my child, “are you thinking of killing yourself?” and the answer was “yes,” I was so grateful that I had the courage and knowledge to ask the question. My child was relieved, as though a pressure had been lifted.”
Aliçia Raimundo attempted to take her own life. Today, speaking publicly about her attempt, she focuses on conveying that recovery is possible.
What it is:
Aliçia is a mental health advocate who speaks and writes publicly about her personal experiences with mental illness and suicidality and her path to recovery. In one example of her outreach, Aliçia wrote “It was no longer whispers,” a February 4, 2013 post for the American Association of Suicidology’s Suicide Attempt Survivors Blog.Tags: Blog, Personal stories, Suicide attempt survivors, Public speaking
According to her website, Aliçia’s overall goals for her work include helping others to connect to the lived experience of people who experience mental health issues and reducing the prejudice and discrimination often attached to these problems. One way she pursues these aims is by publicly telling her own story, an approach to stigma reduction that is supported by research. Her AAS blog post reflects her overall goals and serves a specific purpose outlined in the introduction: to explore how attempt survivors can make the transition to speaking openly about their experiences. In the post, Aliçia includes content relevant to the audience and purpose. For example, she discusses how speaking out rather than hiding her suicidality has increased her self-acceptance. She describes steps she took to educate herself about suicide and mental health and how this knowledge helped her grow as a speaker and shape her messages. She also observes that the world has become more open and receptive to conversations about mental health and suicide since she first began speaking.
Aliçia’s writings and talks adhere to the Safety recommendations. For example, she doesn’t include potentially harmful details about her attempt that vulnerable individuals might imitate. She also avoids making it seem like most people with mental illnesses attempt suicide (i.e., “normalizing” suicide), instead focusing on her own recovery and how others can help. In addition to being safe, the focus on help and recovery adds to a “Positive Narrative” — see the next bullet.
Aliçia’s AAS blog post describes her conscious decision to make sure her talks convey a message of recovery: “As my speaking career grew, I grew with it. I learn[ed] more about mental health, took suicide prevention courses like ASIST and QPR, and made sure the messages I was sharing were a good mix of truth and positivity to inspire others that recovery was possible.”
Guideline Example relevant to this type of message:
Also see resources in the Guidelines category Stigma Reduction.
This quote from Aliçia’s blog post highlights the changes she has observed in people’s willingness to discuss suicide and mental health openly: “…I am seeing the world change. [People] are telling me how my simple act of sharing my story of recovery with social media has inspired them to get help, to reach out to a loved one, or to share their own story. Our voices are getting louder. We are getting stronger.” — Aliçia Raimundo