How to Communicate Clearly, Safely, and Consistently

Clear, safe, and consistent communication is important throughout community suicide prevention. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) comprehensive approach notes, you will need to communicate internally with your suicide prevention coalition partners and externally with other community leaders about your activities’ progress, successes, and lessons learned. You may also want to develop public education campaigns as part of your suicide prevention activities. To do each of these things, your group will need to create messages together that are safe and effective, i.e., ones that are appropriate for each audience; convey hope for recovery; and do not normalize, sensationalize, or stigmatize suicide.

Developing the skills to communicate well internally and externally takes time and resources from all local suicide prevention partners. Partners will need to do the following:

  • Agree on what to communicate about and why
  • Develop and refresh communication campaigns (if you use them)
  • Identify the best ways to reach different populations, which may change over time
  • Tailor messages for each population
  • Evaluate communications’ successes and areas for improvement

There are three key areas for achieving the Communication element:

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The volunteer-based Lewis County Traumatic Loss Team (a postvention team) provides support to the community after a death by suicide occurs. Area agencies engage in regular communication and actively refer community members to the postvention team. The postvention team drafts an annual letter that describes the number of referrals they received from community partners, the grief support services they provided, and their gratitude for community partners’ support. This letter helps the team provide progress reports and ensures the work of all coordinating partners is recognized over time.

– Anna Platz, Deputy Public Health Director, Lewis County, New York