Online Program

Rethinking suicide prevention communications based on current research

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 8:30 a.m. - 8:50 a.m.

Linda Langford, ScD, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Waltham, MA
Communications has long been recognized as an important component of suicide prevention. For example, the first goal of the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) was “Promote awareness that suicide is a public health problem that is preventable.” Recently, experts have identified the need for a shift in public messaging about suicide. Recent reviews have found that messaging about suicide has focused disproportionately on the problem of suicide, rather than solutions, which may convey that suicide is common, a reasonable choice, and impervious to help. This emphasis is problematic due to research demonstrating that certain types of messages can increase suicides among vulnerable individuals. In addition, reviews have noted that many messages about suicide do not adhere to recommendations from the broader communications literature, for example, using a data-driven planning process; integrating communications into a broader plan; promoting specific behaviors in defined audiences; using audience research to inform messages, and evaluating outcomes. The revised NSSP, released in 2012, reflects the need for a new messaging approach with the revised goal “Implement research-informed communication efforts designed to prevent suicide by changing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.” This session will briefly review data demonstrating the need for a change in messaging about suicide and will summarize lessons learned from diverse areas of research, including suicide contagion, health communications, and stigma, that can inform future efforts.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Describe findings from public opinion polls and other data sources demonstrating the need for a new approach to communications about suicide. List message characteristics that research finds have the potential to increase suicide risk among vulnerable individuals. Discuss research findings from literature on health communications, stigma, and other areas that serve as the basis for best practices in suicide prevention messaging.

Keyword(s): Suicide, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I work at the only SAMHSA-funded national technical assistance center related to suicide prevention, specializing in communications issues. I am one leader of a national initiative to improve communications efforts addressing suicide prevention. I serve as a subject matter expert on two national communications campaigns. I previously taught a core course in health communications in the Tufts-Emerson Master's program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.