Safe messaging: the lifeboat we need in this digital era, by Rachel Papke

Safe messaging: the lifeboat we need in this digital era

By Rachel Papke, Communications Manager, Jordan Porco Foundation


Ever feel like you are lost in this sea of negative, violent, tragic images and messaging in today’s digital era? You are not alone, even though constant immersion in this can make you feel as though you are—like you are trapped in a never-ending cycle of gloom and doom.

Pause. Breathe. Redirect.

There is help, and where there is help, there is hope. With safe messaging, you can feel empowered to start conversations in a way that is meaningful, builds trust, and helps keep you and your loved ones safe. It’s time to get on-board the safe messaging lifeboat to help you navigate and stay afloat in the tempestuous waters.

Conversations about mental health issues, suicide, and other difficult topics need to happen. We understand these conversations may rock the boat. If you are not comfortable talking about these issues, we want you to know there are resources available and people you can turn to for help.

“You can’t just think, ‘oh, my kid will never do that.’ You have to be of the mindset that this could happen to my kid because it can happen to anyone,” said Marisa Giarnella-Porco, Co-Founder and President of the Jordan Porco Foundation. She co-founded the Jordan Porco Foundation in 2011 after her son died by suicide as a freshman in college.

The risk of suicide contagion is real—very real. There are decades of research on it. Most recently the suicide of Chris Cornell, series like ‘13 Reasons Why,’ violent social media videos, news reporting suicides in unsafe ways, video games, are doing exactly what experts and people in the field of suicide prevention fear—placing lives at risk.

We all need to take responsibility and understand that the way we talk about suicide can influence behavior negatively if the recommendations for safe messaging aren’t followed. This is especially important for media outlets reporting on suicide. The risk of additional suicides increases if we describe the suicide method, use dramatic headlines, repeatedly cover, or sensationalize the death.

Reporting on suicide carefully can help change public misperceptions and encourage people who are at-risk or vulnerable to get help. Two key parts of safe messaging are not reporting the methods used in a suicide or suicide attempt and always publishing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255) with any story about suicide. We encourage any individual or media outlet who is reporting on suicide to please review these references to help prevent suicide, to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Our conversations need to extend beyond the short lifespan of a big story or a popular movie or series. Whether you know it or not, there are people and organizations working tirelessly year-round to bring suicide prevention into the light. It’s their work that we should highlight throughout the year to have meaningful conversations about mental health and suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention efforts exist, persist, and extend far beyond the next big buzz, which unfortunately is usually linked with tragedy. Let’s work together to make positive, safe mental health stories the lifeboat in this digital era.



If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “HOME” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.

 The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.