The tragic and stunning death of Robin Williams has turned the spotlight once again to mental health. As we’ve seen time and again, high profile incidents like this one involving behavioral health, a beloved figure and an element of shock can serve to draw attention to the cause, if only for a short period of time.

But how do those fighting for improved awareness of mental health or better integration of behavioral health into primary care make sure their issues remain at the forefront of the national conversation?

First, it’s critical to tread lightly in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy like this one. Without the right message or the right ask, anything can seem, at best, out of touch and at worst, insincere. Capitalizing on tragedy can backfire – badly.

However, capitalizing on the attention being paid to this issue is imperative. Having the right spokesperson on call to respond to crises is crucial. When news breaks, reporters and producers need to speak with someone immediately. So, for the right messages to get out about the importance of mental health, a reactive, trustworthy spokesperson is key.

Finally, the importance of having a defined set of steps to reach a solution or goal cannot be understated. An organization and expert will be more attractive to bookers if they can be assured that the spokesperson can talk about not only the issue at hand, but can expand on that to discuss the broader problem and how to solve it.

Using tragedy to garner attention for an issue can be a difficult balancing act, but with the right messaging, some tact and a conscience, it can be done to effectively ensure that fewer people are fallen by the same illness.

SM& client Right Turn, led by CEO and Founder Woody Giessmann, is a great resource which is dedicated to helping people in the music, arts and entertainment industries through recovery. For more information, visit