In preparation for revising the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP), progress reviews were conducted to assess several of the original National Strategy goals.
The results were summarized in a report entitled Charting the Future of Suicide Prevention: A 2010 Progress Review of the 2001 National Strategy and Recommendations for the Decade Ahead.
Among the goals reviewed was Goal 1 of the 2001 NSSP: “Promote awareness that suicide is a public health problem that is preventable.”
Recommended actions included public information campaigns, convening of forums, use of the internet to disseminate information, recruiting new groups and institutions to suicide prevention, and other efforts.
- There has been “extensive and enthusiastic investment” in informational and educational efforts.
- Data from public opinion polls shows that a majority of Americans believe that many suicides are preventable and it is important to invest in suicide prevention.
- Some messages were generally consistent with suicide prevention goals, e.g. by promoting help-seeking, listing available resources
- However, also found concerning content, e.g. statistics and language that normalizes suicide
- Few messages were developed using research-based best practices in communications, e.g.,
- Lack of systematic planning or clear goals and objectives
- Messages “stand alone,” unconnected to other programmatic efforts
- Little audience research
- Not targeted to specific audiences;
- The authors noted that the NSSP objective to reach large portions of the population with statewide campaigns may have resulted in very generalized campaigns, rather than efforts that are more tailored to defined audience segments as recommended by the communications literature.
- Messages calling for “action” often did not specify what actions should be taken and how to take them.
- Little evaluation
Charting the Future made three recommendations in this area:
Recommendation 1: Develop and implement plans to increase the proportion of public awareness and education campaigns that reflect both the fundamental principles of health communication and the safe messaging recommendations specific to suicide.
Recommendation 2: Promote the importance of using public awareness and education campaigns as an adjunct to other interventions rather than as stand-alone initiatives. Whenever possible, health communications campaigns should have much more specific goals than simply “raising awareness.”
Recommendation 3: Promote the development of public awareness and information campaigns that are tailored for and targeted toward specific audiences and that describe the actions those audiences can and should take to prevent suicidal behavior.
Access the Full Charting the Future Report (see pages 6-9)