Promoting suicide prevention

Campaign tips from human behaviour and suicide prevention research.

  1. The most highly rated messages, by both experts and those with lived experience, encourage family members or friends to:
  • ask directly about suicidal thoughts and intentions
  • listen to responses without judgment
  • tell the person at risk that they care and want to help 
  1. Use universal human desires in a first person narrative to engage more people, create feelings of empathy and relatability, and reduce othering.

For example, ‘we all want to feel positive about our lives’  and ‘everyone needs help sometimes’.

  1. Use language and images that portray hope and help. Stories of hope and recovery have the power to help others and dispel stigma and myths about suicide.
  2. Don’t talk about stigma, reducing stigmas, challenging stigmas or breaking stigmas, this only reinforces a sense of stigma.
  3. Include interactive channels as campaigns that rely primarily on passive platforms like billboard advertisements tend to be the least effective.
  4. Co-produce campaigns with people who have lived experience, communities and the intended audience from the outset. Or at least test messages first and consider the impact of messaging on both the targeted and non-targeted audiences.
  5. Aim for medium term and high intensity campaigns as short-term initiatives have very little, if any, effect and improvements in help-seeking are observed with intense implementation.
  6. Ensure calls to action and direction to support services are integral to the campaign. Campaigns without these are unlikely to change behaviour.
  7. Promote non-suicide alternatives to crises, including helplines and self-help tools such as coping and distraction techniques.
  8. Remember to check our Wordbook for copy, words and phrases for talking about suicide.