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Family, Friends Need More Resources and Support to Help Loved Ones Who Are Struggling with Their Mental Health

New research and toolkit provide critical resources for increasing 988 usage and access among populations disproportionately impacted by suicide and their loved ones.

Washington, D.C., May 21, 2024New critical research and communications tools for 988 are now available. These novel resources are focused on engaging the trusted messengers that people turn to for reliable, unbiased information, and help when they’re struggling with their mental health or in crisis.

The latest study from the Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI), in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), follows crucial findings released in late 2023 about the public’s awareness, perspectives, and current/potential usage of 988, the national 3-digit hotline for mental health resources and suicide prevention.

In the first phase of research, participants indicated that when they’re struggling with their mental health or are in crisis, they most often turn to their spouse/partner, mother, siblings, and friends for help and advice. These trusted messengers are also the ones that participants said they would most trust information on 988 from, indicating their vital role in helping encourage, recommend, and influence their loved ones/close connections to seek support through 988.

Key findings from the new 988 mixed-methods research study specific to trusted messengers found that:

  • Approximately half of trusted messengers say they’ve heard of 988. Spouses/partners and friends are more likely to be aware/have heard of and are somewhat familiar with 988 compared to other groups.
  • When they’ve heard about it, trusted messengers are most likely to have heard about 988 being available 24/7 and free.
  • Most trusted messengers feel 988 is very/extremely valuable (especially people with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander loved ones/close connections).
  • The majority of trusted messengers would consider using/recommending 988 when their loved one/close connection is struggling or in crisis.
  • Of all the reasons to contact 988, trusted messengers would most consider using 988 to learn how to best support their loved one/close connection when they’re struggling or in crisis.
  • Trusted messengers who are not open to using 988 as a resource cited a variety of barriers: privacy concerns, potential damage to relationships, and lack of knowledge.

“Research with trusted messengers enriches our ability to use broad communications efforts to promote help-seeking and grow awareness or trust in 988,” said Elizabeth Box, MPH, the project’s director and senior advisor to the Action Alliance. “These insights lay a strong foundation for reaching people disproportionately impacted by suicide and their vital support networks.” The Action Alliance and SPRC are eager to share these valuable tools and resources with partners nationwide communicating about 988.

As part of the 988 Formative Research Project’s ongoing efforts, a toolkit for culturally relevant communications is also available. This toolkit is a comprehensive guide for brands and mental health organizations that seek to effectively communicate about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to trusted messengers of populations that are disproportionally impacted by suicide. This toolkit offers insights into key messaging values and principles, as well as specific messaging strategies tailored for different messenger cohorts.

“This research shows us that trusted messengers are the crucial link in encouraging people who are disproportionately impacted by suicide to reach out to 988. With this research, the findings will help us better equip and build confidence in trusted messengers as they support their loved ones and their mental health journey," said Derrick Feldmann, Lead Researcher and Managing Director of the Ad Council Research Institute.

Learn more about the 988 Formative Research at www.988messaging.org/research or download the report here.

About the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) is the public-private partnership working to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and make suicide prevention a national priority. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), through the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) grant, provides funding to the Education Development Center (EDC) to operate and manage the Secretariat for the Action Alliance, which was launched in 2010. Learn more attheactionalliance.org and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following the Action Alliance on Facebook,Twitter,LinkedIn, and YouTube.

About the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
TheSuicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) is the only federally funded resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. SPRC is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Find up-to-date information, guidance, and tools to support effective suicide prevention efforts in communities, states, Tribal settings, health/behavioral health care systems, and other settings at sprc.org and on X, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Sign up for the Weekly Spark to receive the latest news, research, and announcements from SPRC.

About the Ad Council and Ad Council on Research Institute (ACRI)
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, and employer programs, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day. To learn more or get involved, visit AdCouncil.org, join the Ad Council's communities on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and view campaign creative on YouTube.

The Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) leverages the Ad Council’s insight-driven approach to examine some of the most important social issues of our time. Building upon years of research expertise, ACRI works with brand, corporate and nonprofit partners and clients to conduct research to gain a deeper understanding of the public’s perceptions, attitudes and willingness to act on social issues; develop and test messaging and narratives for social good campaigns; help build knowledge on the role influencers or trusted messengers can play to move the public to act; and identify key performance indicators for communications initiatives and the tools through which to measure, assess and optimize them over time. Learn more about ACRI and our 2022 research agenda here.

ACTION ALLIANCE MEDIA CONTACT:
Jamie Bertolis, jbertolis@edc.org

AD COUNCIL MEDIA CONTACT:
Emily Kostic, ekostic@adcouncil.org