Public Education and Awareness Campaigns for Suicide Prevention
Public education and awareness campaigns are commonly used in public health, including for suicide prevention.
These campaigns reach a wide audience and raise awareness for subjects not frequently discussed or largely
unknown to the general public. There is evidence that public awareness campaigns for suicide prevention programs
increase help-seeking behavior. Some campaigns are
specific to suicide prevention, while others address suicide prevention in a broader campaign about mental
health or managing stress.
Campaigns for suicide prevention should emphasize help-seeking, reduce stigma, encourage positive behavior
change, inform your audience of available resources, and highlight effective treatments and supports. Successful
suicide prevention campaigns:
Utilize formative research and systematic planning process
Embed the campaign into an overall suicide prevention strategy
Clearly specify audiences, goals, and a call to action
Are informed by audience research to make them culturally appropriate and credible and understandable to the
Utilize multiple types of media and a broad range of channels
Are evaluated and modified as needed
Public awareness campaigns can use multiple types
of media, including billboards, newspapers and magazines, radio and television, social and streaming
media, posters and ads in public spaces, and brochures in clinics, schools, or other appropriate venues.
Communities and organizations can leverage information and materials from broad, large-scale suicide prevention
campaigns and modify them to their needs. Examples include:
Prevention Month – An annual national campaign to promote suicide prevention awareness during
World Suicide Prevention Day – Every year on September
10th, the world remembers those affected by suicide, promotes awareness, and focuses on efforts to direct
treatment to those who need it most.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week
– The Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day to raise awareness and share
resources and stories.
#BeThe1To – A national campaign to change the conversation from
suicide to suicide prevention by encouraging people take five action steps: ask, be there, keep them safe,
help them connect, and follow up.
and Firearms Suicide Prevention – A nationwide initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide
in the U.S. by 20% by 2025.
Messaging is extremely important in suicide prevention. Public awareness campaigns should follow
guidelines for talking about suicide and best practices for
reporting on suicide. The words and messages used should be clear and should not sensationalize or
normalize suicide. Some commonly used terms may not be helpful for prevention and may increase stigma, such as
the phrase “committed suicide.” It is also important to avoid scare tactics which have proven to be
ineffective public health messaging. Programs should use neutral and compassionate language to facilitate
dialogue, like the phrases offered by the Language
Matters initiative. A suicide prevention expert can provide input on language and wording choices for
The Framework for Successful Messaging, from the National
Alliance for Suicide Prevention, is a research-based resource that outlines considerations when messaging to the
public about suicide. It includes information to develop an effective strategy; highlight a positive narrative;
follow guidelines for specific goals, populations, channels, settings, topics, and other areas; and communicate
safely to avoid content that is potentially harmful or undermines prevention. For example, since firearms are
typically the most used method for suicide in rural areas, rural communities can focus their education and
awareness campaigns around preventing firearm suicides. Campaign messages
can address safe storage of firearms in the home and temporary relocation of firearms for someone who is
at-risk. Developing these messages in collaboration with leaders and members of the gun-owning community can
ensure they will be well received by most gun owners.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Guide to Using Facebook to Promote Suicide Prevention and Mental Illness Stigma Reduction
Provides the tools to implement a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook that enables local communities to
discuss mental illness, recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide risk, and apply local resources. Includes
information about safety related to suicide prevention topics on social media.
Organization(s): County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency
Making Health Communication
Programs Work: A Planner’s Guide
Offers a practical approach for planning and implementing a health communication program regardless of topic,
audience, geographic extent, or budget. Outlines steps that can be adapted to meet the needs of a specific
program and offers suggestions on ways to modify the process.
Organization(s): National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute
Media Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention
Offers advice for organizations and individuals conveying information on social media addressing mental health
and suicide topics intended to reduce stigma, encourage help-seeking behavior, promote suicide prevention, and
reduce suicide contagion within a vulnerable population.
Organization(s): The Entertainment Industries Council, TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media)