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Communicating with the Media on Mental Health Issues and Suicide: For U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Public Affairs Officers

About This Course

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has worked hard to help veterans who have mental illness or other mental-health conditions, as well as those considering suicide. That is a story that needs to be told — and it needs to be told in ways that do not perpetuate myths and stereotypes.

This course aims to provide public affairs officers (PAOs) in the VA with the information and insight needed to craft safe and effective messages about suicide and mental health. The course is an effective resource for all communicators who work with members of the media.

The course offers insight into some of the challenges and opportunities that journalists face in covering mental health and suicide so that VA personnel can develop strategies to best collaborate with journalists on these topics.

The course emphasizes the National Action Alliance’s Framework for Successful Messaging to provide guidance to PAOs in developing strategic, safe, positive and prevention-focused messages.

What Will I Learn?

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify the different departments of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Direct reporters to the right information
  • Describe the VA's efforts to address mental health issues and prevent suicide among veterans
  • Provide context to the data that the VA gathers
  • Pitch story ideas to reporters

Who Should Take This Course?

Public affairs officers (PAOs), who are the primary media contacts within their VA facilities. The secondary audience is VA suicide prevention coordinators, who often provide information about their suicide prevention activities to PAOs and provide media interviews as technical experts.

Course Instructor

Mark J. Miller

Mark J. Miller has written for American Journalism Review, Presstime, Crain's BtoB's Media Business, Folio: magazine and Digital Magazine News as well as Glamour, Details, The Washington Post,, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Runner's World, among many others.


Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic programs, Cantigny Park and museums, the foundation helps develop citizen leaders and works to make life better in our communities. The foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The foundation is one of the nation's largest foundations, with more than $1 billion in assets.

Education Development Center (EDC)

Education Development Center (EDC)

The Suicide Prevention Resources Center of the Education Development Center (EDC) is the nation’s only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. SPRC provides technical assistance, training, and materials to increase the knowledge and expertise of suicide prevention practitioners and other professionals serving people at risk for suicide.

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is the public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. It envisions a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide. The mission of the alliance is to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) by Championing suicide prevention as a national priority, catalyzing efforts to implement high priority objectives of the NSSP and cultivating the resources needed to sustain progress.

Training Partners

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mission is to fulfill President Lincoln's promise: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's Veterans. VA's core values focus minds on their mission of caring and thereby guide our actions toward service to others. These values — Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence — define their culture and strengthen dedication to those they serve.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leader in the fight against suicide. We fund research, offer educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has 75 local chapters with programs and events nationwide. Review our Annual Report to learn more about AFSP’s life-saving work, and join the national conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) was one of the nation's first organizations dedicated to the prevention of suicide and was a co-founding member of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. Our history and growth from an all-volunteer, small grassroots group of passionate survivors led us to what is one of today's leading national not-for-profit organizations with staff dedicated to prevent suicide.

This $30 course is free thanks to a grant by Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Educational Development Center.

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