Youth Change Makers -- Power, Empathy & Creativity Unleashed: Interview with Stan P. Collins | Episode 17

NOTE: This podcast aired on 8/14/18 at 10AM ET

How do we communicate about suicide with teens? Perhaps, they are the ones in the best position to tell us.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention recommends strategy, safety and a positive narrative when messaging about suicide. Messages and images that encourage hope are better than ones that imply "nothing can be done." Messages that celebrate resilience, healing journeys and compassion are better than ones that romanticize death or are voyeuristic or sensationalized. Messages that inspire action like reaching out or offering compassion are more valuable than ones that perpetuate misinformation and myths.

In this podcast we learn some best practices in enrolling our youth to be these positive, safe, and effective messengers for suicide prevention and mental health promotion.

Stan Collins is the Co-Founder and Program Manager of Directing Change Student Film Contest and Program. This program invites high school students to create 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health. These films are by, about and for youth suicide prevention and mental health promotion advocates. We discuss the notion that youth are uniquely positioned to make cultural and systems change because they have a purity in their passion to make the world a better place and because they are not scared to get in touch with empathy.

Often teens' fearlessness to stand up for what is right is inspiring to all.

During the interview, Stan shares his personal journey through suicide loss as a teen into his national leadership roles today. He shares three best practices to youth who are working on their own school and community mental wellness campaigns:

  1. Always share vetted resources -- like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line.
  2. Rather than only reinforcing a dramatic narrative around suicide death data that could lead people to feel hopeless, cultivate a positive social norm about help-giving and help-seeking.
  3. Avoid any description or image about the means of suicide or death scene. These depictions are not the point of the message.
  4. Remind people of their reasons for living and options to reduce misery. 
  5. Don't oversimplify causes of suicide or pathways to recovery. Sustained support and comprehensive wellness are key.
  6. Get trained in suicide prevention through programs like QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) or safeTALK and ask about how cultural diversity plays a role in messaging to specific groups.

About Stan P. Collins

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Stan Collins has worked in the suicide prevention field for over 19 years.  He has presented or provided training to over 750,000 adults and youth on the subject of suicide prevention including medical professionals, military, law enforcement, school staff and community members. In 2001, he testified before a United States Senate Subcommittee on the topic of youth suicide. Currently he is working as a consultant in the field, focusing on technical assistance in creation and implementation of suicide prevention curriculums and strategies. 

Stan is part of the California Department of Education’s workgroup that developed the “Model Policy for Youth Suicide Prevention” in response to AB2246. Part of his work currently includes providing trainings to school districts across the state to assist in implementing AB2246 policies and procedures. 

One of Stan’s roles is as the lead consultant and media representative to the San Diego Suicide Prevention Council ( Serving as the primary media relations contact for the S.D. Suicide Prevention Council on the subjects of suicide and suicide prevention, he has conducted over fifty interviews with news media (print, radio and television) to address suicide prevention and in response to suicide deaths. In this role, Stan has coordinated multiple media forums and trainings for both journalists and public information officers on how best to cover and respond to suicide and mental health issues.

Stan also serves as one of the lead consultants to the Fresno County Suicide Prevention Council ( In this role, he has created and provided a number of trainings on suicide risk assessment, safety planning intervention and suicide prevention gatekeeper trainings. 

He is the co-founder of the Directing Change Program and Film Contest. In addition, he is co-author of the Know the Signs Training Resource Guide for Suicide Prevention in Primary Care toolkit, and author of the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training for First Responders

Show Notes

Student Films

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