Positive Narrative

Many Ways to Be Positive

The “Positive Narrative” is an overarching theme, not predefined messages or particular language. For example, a Positive Narrative might be conveyed by including:

  • Concrete and realistic actions that a particular audience can take to contribute to suicide prevention, along with information needed to act, such as detailed guidance, warning signs, web links, phone numbers, etc.
  • Examples of effective prevention or intervention efforts
  • Personal stories of coping, resilience, and recovery (note that these types of stories can also help to reduce stigma)
  • Descriptions of effective treatments and where to find them 
  • Programs or services your organization provides
  • Stories of people helped by particular services or supports
  • Descriptions of program accomplishments and successes

The choice depends on who is messaging, the goals and audience for the message, the communication channels, and other factors. In other words, the Positive Narrative should fit the message Strategy. For a fundraising appeal, the Positive Narrative might take the form of organizational success stories. A campaign aimed at helping parents to recognize and address suicidal behavior might include action-oriented information about what signs to look for, how to have a conversation about those signs, and when and how to take other action. The fundraising and parent messages are quite different, but each conveys the overarching message that suicide is preventable and reinforces that idea by illustrating what prevention looks like in action.

Proactively and collectively shaping messaging

Focusing on the positive does not mean hiding the tragedy of suicide, avoiding discussion of people who have died by suicide, or never talking about suicide as a problem. Rather, we hope to increase the likelihood that the public also receives positive and helpful messages about prevention. The goal is to use our collective voice as a field, and be proactive in shaping public perceptions about suicide. No single message alone creates a narrative, but every message adds to it. By incorporating some aspect of the Positive Narrative, every message about suicide can help shape the public’s views about prevention.

As a reminder, the call for positive messaging pertains only to public messaging and therefore does not extend to non-public communications such as private conversations, support group discussions, doctor-patient visits, one-on-one meetings with decision-makers, planning documents for coalitions, or problem statements for funders.