Utah’s new playbook initiative uses social media to teach suicide prevention

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Joe Tuia’ana talks to the attendees at the presentation of the suicide prevention playbook, the new LiveOn initiative. Utah launched its first suicide prevention playbook entirely on Instagram and free on Sept. 6.(Photo courtesy of Adam Durfee)

Utah launched its first suicide prevention playbook entirely on Instagram on Sept. 6, with the purpose of educating Utahns and facilitating conversation about mental health and suicide prevention on social media.

The free playbook will consist of 10 lessons or Instagram posts on how to prevent suicide, how to talk about mental health and how to create a safety plan for those dealing with suicidal ideations

LiveOn is a public-private mental health and suicide prevention campaign in Utah. In October the organization started brainstorming ideas for a new social media campaign to educate and inform people about suicide prevention. However, it wasn’t until Joe Tuia’ana’s experience preventing suicide was covered on multiple news outlets, that LiveOn came up with the concept of creating a playbook.

Tuia’ana, a single dad of three daughters, was driving his children to a high school basketball game when he noticed a man at the Lehi’s I-15 overpass. According to Tuia’ana, the young man looked peculiar, as if he was considering to jump.

Tuia’ana then called the police and walked up to the man, holding his arms open as if to give him a hug.

Tuia’ana, a single dad of three daughters, was driving his children to a high school basketball game when he noticed a man at the Lehi’s I-15 overpass. (Photo courtesy of Joe Tuia’ana)

“I kept telling him, ‘I love you, bro, I love you, bro,’ over and over again, and I remember vividly his big crocodile tears coming down his face,” Tuia’ana said. “He was frantically looking between jumping and looking at me, and after a little bit, he started staring at me more than the freeway, so then is when I jumped and pulled him over the fence.”

Tuia’ana said the young man and him keep in touch and that he has had him over at his house a few times.

Almost six months after the incident, Tuia’ana explained that people working on the LiveOn project reached out to him to have him become the face of the social media playbook campaign, and to have him promote it.

“We wanted to do more on social media with suicide prevention but the catch was that social media doesn’t want to spread suicide prevention messages because it can be conflictive,” said Boncom social media director Adam Durfee.

People at Boncom working on the LiveOn project came up with the approach for informing people about suicide prevention after Tuia’ana’s story appeared on the news.

“It was back in early January this year that the story of Joe Tuia’ana made it to national television and one of the journalists writing his story said something about how there was no playbook for people on how to save someone from taking their live,” Durfee said.

Allison Foust, suicide prevention program administrator of LiveOn, agreed that they had not thought about the need of a playbook on this topic before.

“We pulled together a bunch of different experts in the state and asked ourselves about what every individual needs to know about mental health and suicide, and about how people can learn about it in a way that is going to empower them to talk to their friends and family members,” Foust said. “So we started with a 60-page Word document of everything we wanted everybody to know.”

Foust said that her team’s goal was to make the document digestible, and relatable and in the end they broke it down into 10 Instagram lessons.

“Our hope is to be able to speak to a younger population eventually on TikTok, and then the business community on LinkedIn,” Foust said. “There’s been a lot of comments and engagement so far.”

Boncom senior brand manager Heidi Ertel also talked about LiveOn’s plans to expand, and mentioned they would like to make the playbook’s content available in Spanish.

“The idea for me with the playbook is that the normal person is not going to be in a situation like I was, but a normal person is going to probably need to have open conversations about suicide, and this playbook will make it easier for them to do so,” Tuia’ana said. “The playbook helps us, normal people, make uncomfortable conversations more comfortable.”

Tuia’ana said he is now developing a non-profit organization called, ‘I love you, bro’ to create affordability and access for mental health for men and father specifically.


Tuia’ana also explained he is now developing a non-profit organization called, ‘I loved you, bro,’ to create affordability and access for mental health for men and father specifically. (Photo courtesy of Joe Tuia’ana)

“Suicide is preventable and we all do have a role in suicide prevention,” Foust said. “This playbook will help you figure out what that role is and it’ll help you recognize the warning signs, how to have difficult conversations, get people the help they need…”

When asked about why this suicide prevention playbook is important for the Utah community, and especially BYU students, Boncom’s client services Vice President Steve Wright talked about the need to start important conversations and share the message.

“LiveOn’s suicide prevention playbook is a fantastic resource that’s been put together by local and national experts, but if people don’t use it and share it, then what’s the point?,” Wright said. “We really want to encourage audiences like BYU to use it, because information like this needs to be out there.”

Wright also referenced BYU President Kevin J Worthen and his participation in a video where he made a public service announcement about suicide prevention.

(Video courtesy of Adam Durfee)

“This is a really, really hard conversation to have so one of our primary goals with this project is to normalize the suicide prevention conversation and let people know that it’s okay to talk about mental health,” Wright said. “The playbook takes a little bit of that social pressure and stigma out of the discussion because it informs people on their social media, in such a natural form.”

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