Suicide Prevention


Every one of us has the power to save a life if we Know the Signs, Find the Words, and Reach Out. Entering a film in this category provides you with an opportunity to share information about suicide prevention, resources and the warning signs for suicide. Research shows that 60-80% of young people tell a friend that they are thinking about suicide, but less than 25% of those friends go on to seek help for that person. Visit the Know the Signs campaign website for more information about California’s suicide prevention campaign.

To ensure you score the highest possible points in this category and for important background information, tools and requirements review these links:

Check out this video for a brief overview of the Suicide Prevention submission category

To learn more about including content on suicide prevention as a filmmaker review:Preventing Suicide: A resource for filmmakers and others working on stage and screen

Description: This document from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) offers a wealth of information about the importance of covering suicide prevention in a competent and appropriate way. Included in the document are quick reference points for filmmakers, research on how films can impact the audience, and suggestions when creating films to promote suicide prevention.

Content Scoring Measures:

Be sure to review the disqualifying content information below to learn what to avoid in your film.

The film should communicate a message about suicide prevention that is hopeful and focused on what someone can do to prevent suicide such as reaching out to a friend and seeking support. Images and depictions of people struggling with thoughts of suicide often show them suffering alone and in silence. Instead the film should encourage people to ask for help, reach out to a friend they are concerned about, or to tell an adult if they are concerned about someone. Think of it this way: After someone watches your film what do you want them to do? How do you want them to feel, act or think differently? Here are a few examples of messages your film could communicate.

  • Know the Signs: Most people show one or more warning signs, so it is important to know the signs and take them seriously, especially if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. Click here to learn the warning signs.
  • Don’t keep suicide a secret: It is okay to break a friend’s trust and share your concerns with an adult if you think your friend might be thinking about harming him or herself.
  • Reach out for help: The film should encourage people to ask for help, reach out to a friend they are concerned about, or if a person talks about ending his or her life, to take him or her seriously and connect him or her to help.
  • Find the Words: Asking someone “Are you thinking about suicide?” will not put thoughts of suicide in his or her mind.  In fact, asking this direct question is important.

Although picking up someone’s books when they fall is a nice metaphor, it often takes more than “a simple act of kindness” to save a life.  
Remember that many people don’t know how they should respond to someone who is having thoughts of suicide. Use this opportunity to educate young people and others about what to do, such as talking directly about suicide, seeking help from a trusted adult or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Be Original!  For one, be inspired by winning films from the past, but don’t copy their ideas! Since the suicide prevention category talks a lot about warning signs, using actual “signs” as a metaphor is creative and a great way to communicate the warning signs, but we receive a lot of submissions with this approach.  Think about communicating the message in a way that will really connect with other young people.

Safe Messaging Scoring Measures

All films have to consider safe messaging guidelines for suicide prevention. (Not following these guidelines can cause you to lose valuable points: 30 out of 100 possible points are related to safe messaging. Check out the official judging form to learn what judges will be scoring your film on).

Key Resources:

Provide a Suicide Prevention Resource
A key strategy to prevent suicide is to provide information about crisis and support resources.  You will be meeting this criteria by including the logo end slate (that you can find in the submission toolbox) that includes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the website In addition, you may also include the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741) as an additional resource in your film. Learn more about the Crisit Text Line here.

NEW: Do Not Use Statistics in Your Film
Do not use statistics and statements that portray suicide or a suicide attempt as something that happens all the time. It may seem compelling to get the audience’s attention by using statistics such as “a person dies by suicide every 18 minutes”. However, presenting the data in this format makes suicide seem common and might encourage a young person already thinking about ending their life to believe, mistakenly, that suicide is a common and acceptable solution to the problems they are facing – which is not true!  Statistics are a complex factor in creating safe suicide prevention messages, and including statistics about suicide will result in a significantly lower safe messaging score for your film in this contest, so we recommend avoiding them altogether.

Examples of statistics that should be avoided:

  • “A person dies by suicide every 18 minutes.”
  • “Every 40 seconds someone attempts suicide.”
  • “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 18-24.”

Remember, this category is focused on raising awareness of prevention, not just convincing people that suicide is a problem.

Do not oversimplify the causes of suicide or how to get better. Suicide should not be framed as an explanation or understandable response to an individual’s stressful situation (e.g. a result of not getting into college, parent’s divorce, break-up or bullying) or to an individual’s membership in a group encountering discrimination. Oversimplification of suicide in any of these ways can mislead people to believe that it is a normal response to fairly common life circumstances. It is okay to talk about life problems that may increase a person’s risk of suicide such as family issues (divorce, abuse) or social issues (bullying, break ups). And to talk about these life problems as a possible contributing factor to why a young person might be feeling hopeless, drinking more or isolating themselves (which are warning signs for suicide), but the film should not point to just one of these events as the cause of suicide. The truth is that not one of these events causes suicide, usually a person is dealing with multiple tough situations and is showing warning signs.

Use appropriate language when addressing actions related to suicide. The suicide prevention community is trying to clarify the ways in which people refer to actions related to suicide. The more clear and respectful we can when speaking about actions related to suicide, the more we will be able to remove misconceptions that prevent people from getting support.

Use Don’t Use
“died by Suicide” or “took their own life” “committed suicide” Note: Use of the word commit can imply crime/sin
“attempted suicide” “successful/completed” or “unsuccessful” attempt Note: There is no success, or lack of success, when dealing with suicide

Disqualifying Content:

Submissions that include this type of content, or deemed to contain inappropriate content, will be disqualified. Please note changes for 2021-2022 program year:

1. The film SHOULD NOT include portrayals of suicide deaths or attempts (such as a person jumping off a building or bridge, or holding a gun to their head). New this year: Films should also avoid showing actions or steps leading up to an attempt (i.e. standing on a bridge, holding pills). Portraying actions related to suicide attempts and showing items someone might use for a suicide attempt even in dramatization, can increase chances of an attempt by someone who might be thinking about suicide and exposed to the film.

Be creative and cautious:  There are other ways to demonstrate that someone is thinking about suicide without showing a weapon or other items used in an attempt. Can you convey the sentiment you are seeking without showing this? In general it is best to avoid showing images of ways people might attempt suicide, especially weapons. If you are considering showing items someone might use for a suicide attempt in your film, we strongly encourage you to think about the purpose and benefit of including this in your film. Please note: while we have always asked youth to not show suicide attempts or deaths, we are also asking youth to avoid showing items, even in consideration, that may be used in a suicide attempt. Remember, it is at the discretion of the Directing Change Team to disqualify films that are deemed to have a potentially harmful message.

ALL FILMS WITH DEPICTIONS OF WEAPONS WILL BE DISQUALIFIED! In addition, it is at the discretion of the Directing Change Team to disqualify films that are deemed to have a potentially harmful message or image.

Important to remember: In general it is best to avoid showing images of ways people might attempt suicide, especially weapons.  Also consider that showing images of items/ways people might harm themselves might also be disturbing to those who have lost someone to suicide. Remember, we are focused on prevention and the most important part is educating others about how to help. If you have any questions about this, please contact us!

2. The film should be sensitive to racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, with all individuals realistically and respectfully depicted.

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately: 1-800-273-8255This is a free 24-hour hotline.
Directing Change is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Your Social Marketer, Inc.