With one in five adults in Utah experiencing poor mental health, not enough mental health professionals available to help those who need it most, and a population with access to lethal means, Utah is at the heart of the nation’s suicide belt—a region of the United States where suicide rates are much higher than the rest of the country.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services has been working with Boncom for several years to create and expand the Live On suicide prevention campaign to reach people across the state of Utah with lifesaving messages of hope and healing. Our efforts have been successful, but until no lives are lost to suicide, it’s not enough.
From our research, we know that people wanted to be able to help their friends and family when they are in crisis, but they often didn’t feel equipped to know what to say and do. They needed memorable, free, and easily accessible guidance and steps to follow. They needed a playbook.
So, we created one. A suicide prevention playbook launched exclusively on Instagram.
Enlisting a panel of mental health experts as guides, we transformed the state’s suicide prevention Instagram account - @LiveOnUtah - into an online classroom. In place of lectures, we created carousel posts that included eye-catching graphics, video interviews, and even role-play activities. We used comment threads as class discussion boards and Instagram highlights as additional reading.
Threaded through the structure of the playbook are several methodologies from the study of behavioral psychology carefully incorporated to increase retention of the material and motivations to action for the audience. The ease and accessibility of an Instagram-based tool and the reward certification received upon completion are just a sampling of these methodologies used in this project.
To spread the word about this first-ever suicide prevention playbook on social media, we engaged university presidents, influencers, employers, and other community partners, to tell their students, followers, employees, and audiences about the Live On Playbook and encourage them to go through the course.
Within 30 days, the Live On Playbook was featured in 62 media stories across 16 different states, including ESPN. More than 126,000 people started the journey to becoming a Live On suicide prevention ambassador. The state’s suicide prevention Instagram account - @LiveOnUtah - saw a 431 percent increase in followers and made more than four million impressions in the first four months after launch.
Suicide prevention efforts work best when entire communities come together. With the Live On Playbook, we’re building a community of people who are trained and motivated to save lives.