Talk To Me: Because Media Matters For Youth Outreach

Sept. 9, 2011 “Text, poke, like, or chat…” What about TALK?

I love how this Trevor “Talk To Me” 3-word anti-bullying campaign by The Trevor Project goes back into time to cut through the social media layers to get real with face time.

The Talk to Me campaign for conversation succinctly sums the “Alone Together” dynamic that MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle mentions in her new book (NYT review)  suggesting face to face outreach is not only necessary but preferable when it comes to sincere, genuine, empathetic connection as human beings.

I’m seeing this a lot with teens right now too, when they want to be raw and real and feel completely safe with PRIVACY it’s become “no don’t (FB/Skype/text) me, I’ll meet you at…” or “call me on the landline” in an ironic convergence of digital deluge meets old school non-forwardable/traceable face time.

The Talk to Me Campaign  notes, “…When you TALK to someone you get a sense of how they’re really feeling. You’ll show that you care enough to listen. And, when a person has someone to talk to, they feel supported and are more likely to ask for help when they need it.”

We CANNOT wrongly assume and rely on social media’s ‘always on’ connectivity as prevention or intervention for teens to feel ‘supported’ in times of stress. Sure, it can help, but as the CDC mentions in this article, whether it’s teen dating violence, bullying stress or sexuality issues, BEING THERE (fully present in the present, preferably in person) for someone to talk to is paramount. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year-olds and LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

The Talk to Me project has rounded up Glee cast favorites like Kevin McHale as edu-spokespersons, used video as a conduit to show and tell how to help someone in crisis, and added a “make & wear” tee and pledge platform for social media  to pay it forward to others for peer to peer  presence, much like the Straight Against Hate crew did using Facebook and Twitter during Int’l Day Against Homophobia …Oh, and did I mention a cool flash mob in Los Angeles just posted? (see video at the end)

In our anti-bullying series focusing on solutions-based learning, it wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the recent “bullycide” media coverage, since this week, September 4th – 10th is National Suicide Prevention Week.

Talk to Me is one of those solutions in and of itself as it implores, “Now is the time to check in with friends and family. Let them know that you’re available to talk And, make sure you know what to do if someone is in crisis.”

The latter part of that outreach gave me shivers because I immediately snapped to, “um, DO I know? How would I respond?”

So today’s guest post is a deeper dive for tomorrow’s World Suicide Prevention Day, written by Jeanne, founder of “Chronic” who actually took the proper training with regard to verbiage, suicide alertness/warning signs and journalistic responsibility in word choice to enlighten the rest of us.

It’s not just a ‘cya’ move, since I’m befuddled when kids DO “talk to me” about certain privileged information, because quite frankly I don’t know what to DO with it when it’s NOT life threatening.

As a ‘trusted adult’ when privacy/revealing info is presented it can get dicey, because you want to ‘be there’ to listen but you don’t want the liability of ‘too much information’ because it smacks of parental complicity when minors won’t broach the subjects with their OWN parents…

I’ve decided the whole ‘broach vs breach’ subject is a separate blog post to tackle and research in terms of where the ‘lines’ of liability are…Especially if something were to happen involving self-harm. But for now? I’m fully focused on PREVENTION.

So Talk to Me.

Talk to Me is a simple outreached hand…a human touch…that goes a looooooong way in ‘getting there.’ So yep, I’m taking the pledge today.

You can “talk to me to start the conversation,”…even if I have to refer you elsewhere to finish it.

Related Reading on Shaping Youth

Don’t Miss: Media That Uplifts and Inspires: Positive Picks for Youth Outreach (Resource Roundup Includes: Project, Asset Based,, Josh, Inspire Foundation, The Trevor Project & more…)

Media Matters: SF Giants Are Champions Beyond the Field

Laramie Project: Using Media to Teach Tolerance (10yrs later)

Can New Media Curb Anxiety in Stressed Out Students?

Body Image: Tips For Teens To Survive The Media Morass

Are We Making Matters Worse By All the Body Image Chatter?

What Does A 13-Year Old Boy Know About Dating Violence?

Youth Advice Slinger With a Story To Tell: Josh Shipp

Peace, One Day: Reach &

Project Happiness, How Are YOU Faring?


Guest Post by Jeanne Endo of Chronic who took a suicide alertness class to learn about how to connect people who need them to suicide first aid resources.

Jeanne has also interviewed with helpful tips on Shaping Youth in this post “Diagnosis Endometriosis: What to Know as Preteens Grow.”

Also, for quick acronym awareness:  SafeTALK (SAFE acronym=Suicide Alertness for Everyone) The class is available as training for anyone 15 years and up…might just take it myself!

Note from Jeanne Endo:

PLEASE NOTE: If you are having thoughts of suicide, I urge you to call the hotline in your geographic area to speak with personnel trained in suicide first aid intervention.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Talk to Me!

About Suicide Prevention & SafeTalk

by Jeanne at Chronic

Recently, I heard there was going to be a class called safeTALK (sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Mental Health Association). The acronym safeTALK stands for ‘Suicide Alertness For Everyone’/’Tell, Ask, Listen, KeepSafe’.

Having had direct contact with multiple people who were experiencing thoughts of suicide in the days before I learned of the class, I was pleased and grateful to have the opportunity to take such a well-regarded class about such an important topic. The class brochure came to my attention at a time when I was wishing I had more knowledge about this topic and how to facilitate getting people to the suicide first aid resources they needed.

A person with thoughts of suicide usually gives what are referred to as “invitations”, commonly known as signs or indicators. This is where the person is literally inviting help and tells someone (as clearly as possible either by his/her words, behaviors, or actions) that he/she is having thoughts of suicide. Invitations may not always be blatantly obvious and they are sometimes missed. An alert helper knows what to look for and is thus more likely to notice such “invitations”.

It would be impossible to include all of the information I would like to here. I am certain I will be writing more articles in the future about this topic. There was simply too much information covered to do it justice in one article. However, I thought I would take a moment to list an abbreviated sampling of examples of “invitations”. These are things to look for around you. Someone you know could be sending out signals that he/she is in need of help:

Actions: Withdrawal (family, friends, school, work); Giving away possessions; Extreme behavior changes

Thoughts (that may be expressed verbally): “No one can do anything to help me now”; “I wish I were dead”; “Everyone will be better off without me”

Feelings: Desperate; angry; guilty; worthless; lonely; hopeless

Physical: Lack of interest in appearance; disturbed sleep; physical health complaints

Now, I know many readers here may be thinking that much of what’s listed above could be a sign of other issues and not be “invitations” at all. For example, the “physical” section above may look familiar to chronic illness patients who are not having thoughts of suicide. I understand where you’re coming from if you’re thinking this. The important thing that I took out of learning the invitations above (and others) is that it really can be difficult to tell an “invitation” from, say, a chronic illness patient who is struggling with issues such as having the time/energy to focus on appearance as they might have previously. However, since these are a few of the key “invitations” that people with thoughts of suicide tend to display or say, I think it is well worth noting them.

If you notice potential “invitations”, it’s important to take them seriously and follow up as needed. (Again, I will have to elaborate on details in future posts but, by all means, refer anyone you are concerned about to a hotline if you believe the person is having thoughts of suicide). Some people think asking a person outright if he/she is having thoughts of suicide might “plant the seed in his/her head”. This is not true. If you have reason to believe someone is having thoughts of suicide, it is important not to set aside your concerns. If you believe someone may be having thoughts of suicide, there are two ways to ask them about it:

1) Are you thinking about suicide?
2) Are you thinking of killing yourself?

While these may seem very blunt ways of asking, this is not a time to beat around the bush. It is important to be direct with your questions (like above). If you are concerned enough about the person to ask the question in the first place, it is important to be direct. Again, bringing up the topic won’t “plant the seed in anyone’s head”. So, asking directly like this is an important means for determining whether the person is, in fact at risk for completing suicide. (Please note that I used the word “complete” rather than “commit”. Please refer to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Recommendations for language” section. The safeTALK class taught us to use the word “complete” rather than “commit”).

See below:

The purpose of becoming a trained helper (by taking a class like safeTALK) is not to learn counseling techniques or to do a suicide intervention – as these techniques require much more training. The purpose of the class is to simply recognize a person’s invitations, ask them directly about suicide, and if their answer is yes, to connect that person with suicide thoughts to suicide first aid intervention caregivers. An example of a KeepSafe statement would be, “We need extra help. I want to connect you with someone who can help you KeepSafe”.

“All forms of help-seeking about suicide need to be encouraged. A decision to live is far more likely when a person at risk can make it in the company of a helper who is comfortable talking about suicide. The simple and yet profound first approach to any person at risk should be, ‘let’s talk’. That message regards the disclosure of thoughts of suicide as a potential ‘new beginning’. Help-seeking is supported by access to many kinds of resources that can provide help. Crisis line workers, persons aware of the danger of suicide and trained suicide interveners are some of the key resources needed to make help seeking credible”…

Source: Page 10 of the safeTALK Resource Book
© 2008 LivingWorks Education Incorporated

At this point I would like to pause to make it very clear that I am not trained in suicide first aid intervention such as the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program. The safeTALK class I took essentially helps to bridge the gap between the community and suicide first aid resources (i.e. suicide prevention hotlines).

For an explanation of the difference between alertness training (like safeTALK) and skills intervention training (like ASIST), see below. This explanation comes from LivingWorks, the company that designed the two programs:

The safeTALK class that I took was very informative, helpful and powerful. If you are interested in looking into whether safeTALK training is available in your area, just Google it. When I Googled it, this list came up for New York State:

Alternatively, you might want to check with one of the organizations that sponsored the workshop I attended. Perhaps they can direct you to one in your area. I cannot recommend this class highly enough. Our instructor, Eric Weaver (Executive Director of Overcoming the Darkness) was informative, helpful, and encouraging. With the content of the material being so serious, he obviously took measures to ensure that careful language choices were made and that there was an appropriate tone for the classroom atmosphere. At the same time, I do not want to leave the impression that the class was a gloomy experience. On the contrary, everyone in the room was clearly highly motivated to get everything they could out of the class and it was a positive, empowering experience because the end goal of taking such a class is to help people gain access to the suicide first aid resources they need.

Having never taken a class quite like this, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Early on, I became very comfortable thanks to the helpful instructor, great materials (videos) presented during the class, and the wonderful people who took the class with me.

Additional related resources:
24-hour crisis line in the USA:
— > Tel: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
In Canada:
24-hour crisis line in Australia:
— > Tel: 13 11 14
Befrienders Worldwide (with Samaritans): Find helpline by country here…
Samaritans: Email helpline > HERE or phone (see below)
— > Tel: In the UK dial… 08457 90 90 90 (UK local rate) or +44 1603 611311 AND in the Republic of Ireland dial 1850 60 90 90.

This list of resources is not all-inclusive. Again, if you are in crisis and are having trouble locating a hotline in you area, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or please click here to search by geographical area:

Additional resources that may be of interest:
Tel: +1 (202) 237-2280
Washington D.C. and Newton, MA, USA
Tel: 877-GET-SPRC (877-438-7772)
TTY: 617-964-5448
120 Wall Street, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10005
Tel (toll-free):1-888-333-AFSP (2377)
Phone: (212) 363-3500
Fax: (212) 363-6237
Amy’s note: Adding this related resource for outreach/help too:



  1. Amy,

    Thank you for writing about the extremely important topic of suicide prevention and for including my post as well. It’s so important to speak out about suicide. The numbers are staggering. Let’s see what we can do to reduce the stigma… and to help more people who need them to find suicide first aid resources!


Speak Your Mind