How Digital Innovation Can Boost Suicide Prevention Efforts

Real Warriors Campaign graphic
By Ms. Caroline Collins and Ms. Maria Fabiano
September 23, 2019

Service members may have a hard time recognizing when “normal” routines – like regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep each night – are negatively impacting their health. It can also be difficult to recognize when these routines or behaviors are really signs of more serious psychological health concerns. PHCoE’s Real Warriors Campaign aims to empower members of the military community with tools to take charge of their psychological health and reduce barriers to seeking care. This summer, Real Warriors employed innovative digital outreach campaigns to provide tips and resources on gateway topics – such as sleep, anger and transitions – through popular digital platforms. These digital outreach campaigns have not only increased engagement around these topics, but they have also connected service members, veterans, and families with life-saving assistance.

In July and August, Real Warriors conducted targeted digital outreach campaigns on Twitter and Google. These initiatives were designed to help audiences connect the dots between their day-to-day symptoms, adopt healthy behaviors to manage symptoms, and recognize when it’s time to reach out for help. Compelling messaging and imagery encouraged audiences to visit the respective gateway topic’s webpage on the recently redesigned realwarriors.net. The redesigned site features a crisis support banner at the top of each individual webpage to provide easy access to the Military Crisis Line (MCL) or 911, to encourage users to seek emergency care if they need it.

These efforts enabled Real Warriors to directly connect members of the military community with crisis support services, even when they were initially just seeking information on gateway topics. Crisis calls initiated from the banner on realwarriors.net more than doubled as a result of the digital outreach campaigns compared to the two months prior to their launch. Between May and June, a total of 33 calls were placed (32 to the MCL and one to 911). Since the digital outreach campaigns began on July 1, 71 people have reached out for help through the site’s banner after engaging with digital outreach campaign content. Forty-three of those calls were to the MCL, while 28 were to 911. Over one-third of these calls were driven solely by exposure to the Real Warriors article “How to Develop Healthy Sleep Habits” in July, resulting from the digital campaign conducted on Twitter.

Reducing the stigma associated with psychological health concerns takes multiple approaches, from changing the way service members view psychological health to changing the way they access care. Finding innovative yet effective ways to engage with audiences not only helps to shift the conversation, it also can help connect those we serve with life-saving resources at the right time.

Ms. Collins and Ms. Fabiano are contracted writers for the Psychological Health Center of Excellence's Real Warriors Campaign. Ms. Collins has a Master of Science in health communication. Ms. Fabiano has a master's in public administration.


The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.


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