The goal for any mental health public speaker or suicide awareness speaker should be to:
- eradicate myths and de-stigmatize
- inspire hope and healing
- help people with tools to find emotional balance and stability
Inspiring doesn’t mean pouring content over people hoping it gets absorbed like you would pour water over a garden of daisies.
It doesn’t mean presenting multiple dour statistics that can suck the life out of the audience leaving everyone feeling hopeless.
It doesn’t mean pasteurizing a presentation in the name of “standardizing the message” to the point your audience reaches for their phones to blunt the boredom.
The stories are crucial for cultivating inspiration
Mental health topics need moments of reflection, acceptance of sadness, and even dashes of humor. But what it needs most of all are authentic and vulnerable stories. Stories that are not propped up by crutches with overly sensationalist soundbites and graphic descriptions.
It’s those real and emotionally naked stories, that a speaker shares that inspire and motivate. Those times when someone is down and thinks they can’t move forward but somehow they do. It’s that episode in their life when they moved from the darkness to being able to find joy and the hard work and tools they used to get there.
It’s that moment when the audience members are listening and think, “I can do this. And to help me find that path forward I’m going to do such and such.”
Putting together a mental health or suicide prevention presentation is a careful balance of both storytelling and genuine takeaways that are helpful, evidence-informed, and don’t perpetuate myths that further stigmatize the subject. This is an art that takes a while to perfect.
I have been able to do this through the feedback I get from the audience in the form of index cards in which I ask the audience to “share one thing they learned,” and leave that as their gift to me. That way I have something to grab onto when I hit that emotional letdown after a speech. And besides that, it helps me focus on the messages that resonate with the audience and build on those key concepts.