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In the United States alone, suicide accounts for nearly 40,000 lost lives per year. That’s the equivalent of death by suicide in the US every 12.3 minutes.

How can you effectively raise awareness and create prevention about such a sensitive subject?

Fundamentals of the Best Campaigns:

  • Evaluate relevant data and segment audiences.
  • Review the warning signs of suicide and develop strong calls to action around these risks.
  • Emphasize hopeful and powerful messaging while framing suicide as a preventable act.
  • Utilize effective resources during the campaign that continue ongoing suicide awareness.
  • Empower participants with tools to talk to at-risk individuals and ultimately prevent suicide throughout the year.
Follow the steps on this and following pages to help you bridge the gap between your campaign participants and at-risk individuals, with the tools necessary to spread awareness.

Step 1: Segment Your Audiences & Evaluate Suicide Risk Factors


Segmenting your audience around age, cultural backgrounds, and shared values is the first step in developing an effective campaign. Start by reviewing relevant resources and data that speak to these audiences.


The truth is that anyone can be at risk. Because your audience is influenced by differing information and events, it’s important your participants are cognizant of relevant data.

Factors vary and may even change over time, although many campaigns will be segmented around four factors:

  • Gender - Males represent 79% of all US suicide deaths.
  • Age - Suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts are significantly higher among individuals aged 18-29 than among those aged 30+
  • Military - In 2012, the number of military suicides exceeded the number of those killed in combat
  • Racial & Economic - The highest suicide rates in the US are among Caucasians, American Indians, and Alaska Natives

It’s equally important to emphasize the nuances within your target audiences.Once your participants understand the specifics of these audiences, they’ll be able to identify barriers, risks, and specific challenges to their campaigns.

Highlighting the risk factors behind suicide is a crucial step in building an effective awareness campaign. 

Mental Disorders

In spite of being overstated, suicide does disproportionately affect individuals with mental illness. Not everyone who experiences a mental illness is suicidal—but of those who die from suicide, more than 90% have a diagnosable mental disorder.


Substance Abuse

The connection between substance abuse and suicide has traditionally been misunderstood, according to SAMHSA. However, experts encourage a public health approach that leverages both mental health and substance abuse knowledge to improve prevention efforts.

For example, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that alcohol and drug abuse is second only to depression and mood disorders as risk factors.


Life Events

An individual’s surroundings and environment can heavily contribute to suicide risk.

Common stressful life events include:

  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Job loss

Prolonged stress factors include:

  • Harassment
  • Bullying
  • Relationship problems
  • Unemployment

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