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Safe and Effective Messaging Tips

When sharing messages about mental health issues and suicide, it’s important to do so in a safe and effective way. You want to make sure you are helping people rather than discouraging them, especially in times of vulnerability. Here are some resources, guidelines and quick tips to learn more about safe and effective messaging.

Resources and Guidelines:

Quick Tips:

Main Messages & Takeaways:

  • Always promote help-seeking:
    • You are not alone
    • It’s ok to ask for help – it’s available and a sign of strength
    • Treatment works
    • If you discuss your personal struggles/experiences, it’s important to say that you were able to work through tough times because you reached out for help
  • Refer!
    • Learn more and how to help a friend:
    • Text 741741 or call 800-273-TALK (8255) if you’re struggling

General Messaging:

  • Everyone struggles at times, but if a problem is lasting too long, is too intense or feels like more than you can handle, reach out for help.
  • It’s important to learn the warning signs of suicide, self-harm and substance abuse.
    • Look for changes in behavior, personality
  • It’s ok to ask for help – it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, or just want attention. Everyone needs help from time to time, and if you or a friend is struggling, you should reach out to talk to someone right away.
  • Trust your gut – if you’re worried about yourself or a friend, don’t hesitate to take action and get help. You don’t have to know what is wrong-just that they’re in trouble or struggling.
  • Be direct with your friends – tell them you’re worried and why, ask them how they’re feeling and offer to reach out to a professional and/or family member with them or for them.
  • If you are immediately concerned about yourself or a friend, text Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). These services are free, confidential and available in the USA 24/7.
  • If you feel you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or go directly to your nearest emergency room.

More Info & Tips:

  • About suicide:
    • Typically, there is mental illness in the context of suicide. Treatment of a mental health condition can make a tremendous difference in someone’s life.
    • Suicide is a tragic, permanent action and should never be the solution to a problem.
  • Language for talking about suicide:
    • Say:  “died by suicide”; “lost to suicide”
    • Instead of: “committed suicide” or “shot him/herself”; “killed him/herself”
    • Say: “suicide attempt survivor”; “did not die in a suicide attempt”
    • Instead of: “failed or unsuccessful suicide attempt”
    • Try not to discuss the details of the death or the means used
    • Avoid describing death by suicide as an “epidemic/crisis,” or using dramatic terms like “skyrocketing” or “trend”
  • Language for talking about mental illness:
    • Say: “He is living with a mental health condition”; “She is afflicted with / suffers from”;  “She is living with / She has been diagnosed with”; “She has schizophrenia / She is living with schizophrenia”
    • Instead of:  “He is mentally ill”; “She is schizophrenic”
    • Say: “He is experiencing symptoms of”
    • Instead of: “He is psychotic / disturbed / crazy”

About Crisis Text Line: Crisis Text Line provides support for suicidal ideation, anxiety, LGBTQ-related issues, eating disorders, abuse, addiction and beyond.

About The Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States.

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The World Health Organization defines “mental health” “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In using this definition, S2i recognizes that some mental health challenges reflect brain diseases that, like physical diseases, require appropriate stigma-free and patient-centered care and include both mental health and substance use disorders. Other mental health challenges stem from social conditions and marginalization and require different forms of interventions.