Last month, the Alliance of Hope created a social media campaign to bring a different perspective to National Suicide Prevention Month. Our goal was to increase awareness about the challenges suicide loss survivors face, give survivors a voice, and provide an opportunity for dialogue to occur.
Understanding that many loss survivors feel discomfort around traditional prevention messages, we wanted to expand the public discourse. We shared a new post every other day, with original content inspired by the words of survivors.
The response we received was overwhelming. Thousands commented on and shared the posts, telling their own stories of struggle and loss. A common theme survivors felt was that others did not understand suicide loss unless they had been through it.
In their comments, loss survivors addressed issues you don’t normally see discussed during prevention month. They repeatedly spoke about the oversimplification of the “suicide is preventable” statement and the need to change the conversation to include addressing societal issues, and the importance of social support and kindness.
The most widely shared posts were: “Sometimes There Are No Signs” and “Suicide is Complicated.”
Hundreds wrote to say they saw no “signs” prior to their loved one’s death. They felt the common emphasis on looking for signs was overly simplistic. Some wrote to say they DID see signs — and had done everything they could to help their loved one — but nothing worked.
This post, featuring a quote from Dr. Amy Barnhorst’s New York Times oped: “The Empty Promise of Suicide Prevention,” was also very popular.
Other posts focused on the devastating impact of suicide on those left behind — and the importance of providing support in suicide’s aftermath.
We are very grateful to Pinckney T., a member of our community who provided the inspiration and designed the graphics for this campaign. Pinckney lost her beloved brother to suicide and understands firsthand the experience of loss survivors. She is a strong advocate that survivors’ voices be heard.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness month has come to an end, but discussing the complexities of suicide loss shouldn’t end with it. Let’s keep the conversation going.