Native and Strong

Social change marketing

Native artists, veterans & Two-Spirit folks collaborate to spotlight mental health.

Mental health is a human topic. To reach people on a human level, we drew on the power of artistic expression — shedding light on suicide risk and resilience for two specific groups.


Washington State Department of Health hired us to extend the suicide-prevention campaign we’d already developed to reach two specific audiences: Native veterans and Two-Spirit individuals, who face higher risk of suicide than Native people overall. We dug deep into academic literature and media to learn about these groups’ risk factors and barriers to support. One-on-one interviews provided insights into individuals’ experiences and perspectives, and Two-Spirit and veteran focus groups provided feedback from those perspectives on campaign pieces that already existed.


Our research found that a strong sense of Native identity, friends and family are protective factors against suicide for Two-Spirit folks and Native veterans. So are connections to culture — including creating art and other traditional expressions. For this phase of the campaign, we decided to commission Native artists living in Washington state to create work related to those experiences and to mental health. We were open to any art form and any expression — and from there, we would build a media campaign.

Technical assistance guy walking in front of a bunch of posters pasted on a concrete wall

Connecting with artists

We put out a call for artists through Native, artist, veteran and Two-Spirit networks. Our goal was to make the project-submission process as accessible as possible. To start, we invited everyone who expressed interest to a series of webinars where we provided information about the campaign and its next phase, including funding available to support the artists’ work. We continued to support artists throughout the application process, accommodating those who wished to propose work their own way.

Connecting storytellers

A traditional canoe builder from the Spokane Tribe. A group of Two-Spirit beaders and regalia makers and their relatives. A Cowlitz Indian Tribe linocut artist and her Two-Spirit child. These were among Native artists whose work formed the foundation and heart of this phase of the campaign. After selecting the artists, our team helped them connect with more collaborators — including a Two-Spirit filmmaker, a portrait photographer from the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and a U.S. Navy veteran from the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. Together, they would share stories, create art, and document it all.


These partnerships led to a series of videos that, each in its own way, told stories through an artmaking lens about individuals’ mental health experiences. Our team worked with participants to ensure the videos supported the campaign’s key messages about culture, connection and support — while also reflecting the artists’ vision and honoring individuals’ experiences.

Animated spot

For example, in close collaboration with the artist, our team created this spot based on a mother’s linocut piece made to honor her Two-Spirit child. The mother and child narrate the spot together, telling the story of the child’s mental health journey.

Want to make a campaign that shines?