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.
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.
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:
Special Considerations for Telling Your Own Story: Best Practices for Presentations by Suicide Loss and Suicide Attempt Survivors
Also see resources in the Guidelines category Stigma Reduction.
Read the full AAS blog post. View Aliçia’s TED Talk, follow her on Twitter, or visit her website.
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
The Love is Louder national grassroots movement works online, through the media and in communities to strengthen emotional health by building resiliency, creating connectedness, promoting acceptance, and empowering peers to support each other.
What it is:
Love is Louder was started by The Jed Foundation, MTV and actress Brittany Snow to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood or alone. This initiative addresses issues like bullying, negative self-image, discrimination, loneliness and depression by “raising the volume” around the message that love and support are louder than any internal or external voice that “brings us down.” The emphasis is on coping and resiliency: “Even as we work to stop negative words and actions that hurt us, we can strengthen our abilities to cope with hard times, focus on the positive, support the people around us and reach out for help if we need it.” Love is Louder began as a campaign to engage college students and grew into a nationwide movement with participation by more than hundred thousand college students, youth, and community members of all ages.
Its overall goal—engaging students to be proactive about their emotional health and to feel connected and look out for their peers—is grounded in the Jed Foundation’s broader mission: promoting emotional health and preventing suicide among college students.
To shape the message, the project partners used audience research as well as lessons learned from creating prior campaigns. The research showed that few students were interested in conversations or online spaces focused solely on “mental health.” However, students did respond well to discussions about how they and their friends feel and what they’re experiencing, especially when integrated into technology and social networks they already use.
The campaign built in clear calls to action in three areas: to feel better, to help others, and to change your campus and community, with an emphasis on providing examples of small concrete achievable steps in each area . The centerpiece of the initiative is an extensive social media presence that encourages taking action in the form of sharing struggles, seeking support, offering support to others, using actions to help rather than hurt, and sharing pictures, stories, and messages that love is louder than things that cause pain. A complementary website with materials and tools provides specifics on how to take action online and in local communities. For example, an Action Kit includes an Action Card, which prompts individuals to identify self-care behaviors, ways to help others, and things that make them feel positive. The Kit includes guidance for planning local events and activities to spread Love is Louder messages and actions and encourages sharing of stories and photos from these events online. The website also describes how to take an action photo, create an action page, plan an event, find help, and donate.
The campaign itself does not share messages or materials that violate the Safety guidelines. Because the initiative focuses on positive messages and actions, most individuals who post comments and photos tend to follow those themes and rarely include unsafe details or content that normalizes suicide. Posts indicating that the person is upset or distressed are usually met with encouraging comments by other followers. The project team has a protocol for responding to content or messages about feeling hopeless or suicidal by sending the person a message and/or reporting them to the social media site for imminent risk.
his initiative conveys that there are actions people can take to prevent suicide, that coping and recovery are possible, and that there’s value in uniting our voices to amplify messages that highlight actions and stories of coping. Negative experiences aren’t forbidden topics; the campaign materials encourage participants to express negative feelings, especially through creative means. These expressions provide the opportunity for peers to provide support and share real stories of how they got through tough times. Thus, individuals’ authentic experiences are honored, but aren’t turned into an overall negative narrative such as “all LGBT kids are bullied” or “no one in this situation ever gets help.”
Guideline Example relevant to this type of message:
Social Media Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (TEAM Up)
See other resources in the Guidelines category Social Media.
Visit loveislouder.com or connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.