Suicide and suicide-related behaviors can be newsworthy topics. But how those stories are shared makes a difference in how others in the community view and respond to suicide.
We helped to shine light on this topic when we designed and planned a communications conference for news media and spokespeople.
Mental Health America of North Dakota and partner agencies wanted to erase the stigma around suicide, while increasing the likelihood that vulnerable individuals would seek help after viewing or reading a story about suicide.
To address this issue, they received a grant to hold a communications summit for news media and organizational spokespeople. They asked Reach Partners to join the summit’s planning committee and to oversee details of the conference, which was held in both Fargo and Bismarck.
“It was an honor to do this,” says Anita Hoffarth, co-owner of Reach Partners. “We were a key part of the committee.”
The group invited Daniel J. Reidenberg, executive director of S.A.V.E. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), to share best practices in reporting on suicide. In addition, a panel of survivors of suicide loss shared their personal experiences. They spoke about what it was like to be interviewed by members of the media and how the language and headlines used affected their families.
Sixty-five members of the media, public information officers, law enforcement and educators attended the conference. Conference planners assembled educational resources to distribute to those who had been invited but couldn’t attend.
During the half-day event, attendees learned more about suicide and how reporting and messaging could make a difference in whether viewers and readers would consider suicide or seek help.
One best practice shared was to no longer use the phrase “commit suicide” since the verb suggests the person conducted a crime. Instead reporters were encouraged to say “died by suicide.”
In a post-conference evaluation, 100 percent of the attendees said they were likely to use the information presented the next time they had to report on a suicide.
“I learned a lot of useful things and important considerations for my stories in the future. Thanks!” wrote one attendee.
Local news reports began to reflect many of the best practices shared at the summit – and journalists continue to be more responsible in their reports.
“I’ve even become more careful in how I talk about suicide and share with others what I learned,” Anita says.
When we moved into our new office space (across the hall from our previous location) last summer, something felt familiar.
I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what or why. I had visited the space when it was inhabited by another company, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time in there. Yet, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that something significant had taken place in the very spot where I now work.
And then I had my ah-ha moment: My office used to be Tony’s office. You see, Tony’s work experiences have made me pause and reflect on work life at Reach Partners.
Tony was a long-term employee who worked with this other company in our building. Several years ago she requested one day off – July 10.
I recognize that granting vacation requests or personal days off can be complicated. But from what I understand about this business’s industry, mid-July wasn’t a busy time of the year. From what I knew about Tony, she was hard working and committed.
I don’t know why Tony asked for the day off, but it didn’t matter. Her boss said no. In response, Tony put in her two-weeks’ notice and left the company.
I’m sure denying the request for a day off wasn’t the only reason Tony left, but it certainly was the last straw for her.
Yes, there are rules and employee handbooks to follow. There are good reasons, as an employer, to have policies in place. There also are situations where employers and employees have to make hard choices. For example, I took off less time after my second child was born than I did when my first child arrived. Rachel once chose to fly from Minneapolis to Bismarck so she could attend a family wedding and fulfill a client obligation over the same weekend.
As at any company, Reach Partners always tries to balance the responsibilities of work with the responsibilities of personal life. Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes it’s not. Still, we believe our team is happier, healthier, and more productive when we trust our people to make decisions about their time.
Never do I want to run the kind of company that isn’t willing to consider an employee’s request for personal time. Tony’s company lost an experienced employee. I still wonder if her boss regrets his decision to deny her a day off.
In honor of Tony, we have observed July 10 as a Reach Partners holiday for several years.
This year, Tony’s Day Off will be held a day early because of some scheduling conflicts. That’s okay. What’s important is that we take a day off and recognize that sometimes the best policy is showing a little empathy and trust.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an updated version of a post that ran July 7, 2015.
In case you hadn’t noticed, we LOVE the color purple.
Since we began, our Reach Partners identity has been represented by shades of the color. We think purple perfectly represents our values of gratitude, integrity, beauty, possibility, and empathy. Plus, it makes a powerful, but accessible statement.
Which is why we were super excited when Pantone revealed its color of the year for 2018: Ultra Violet.
Each year color experts from the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for the color influences that best define our times. This year, those experts chose Ultra Violet because it “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us to the future.”
It joins previous Colors of the Year: Greenery, Serenity, Marsala, Tangerine Tango, and Radiant Orchid.
A color may not seem all that important, but it evokes emotions.
What sets Ultra Violet apart from its colorful peers is that it is simultaneously rebellious and calming (or so we hear).
Enigmatic purples have long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance, Pantone says. (Think Prince, Claude Monet). The color also has been closely associated with royalty and spirituality (Think Queen Elizabeth II and meditation rooms).
Ultra Violet also symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity while it inspires connection.
Granted, those are deep messages to attach to one color. But at Reach Partners we’re thrilled to be associated with a color that seems so aptly descriptive of the work we strive to do every day.
We’re certainly no Prince or Queen Elizabeth II, but we make every effort to make sure the work we do is individualized and creative, that it opens paths of possibility for our clients. We believe in the power of connections, that together we’re stronger.
On lighter notes, we’re anticipating that there will be lots of ultra-violet-inspired items in stores this year. We suspect we’ll be adding to our décor and wardrobe.
In addition, as lifelong residents of the upper Midwest, we also have to wonder if Pantone was making predictions about our region’s purple-clad football team: the Vikings. Could it be their year?
Either way, go purple!
PHOTO CREDIT: Art by Dean Johnson, Fargo. His work can be found online at Fargo Stuff.
For us, Thanksgiving is more than a once-a-year celebration. It’s something we practice every single day.
Gratitude is an integral part of who we are at Reach Partners. Collectively and individually, we are thankful for the work we do, the clients we partner with, and the communities we serve.
The past year has been packed with new opportunities and new relationships. It’s been filled with occasions to deepen the partnerships we’ve already made. In the process, we have been blessed and have had a lot of fun along the way.
Here is a sampling of the things we are grateful for in 2017!
What are you grateful for?