Objective The primary objectives of this study were to (1) examine how veterans at risk for suicide understand and interpret suicide prevention messages, and (2) identify message features that support (or hinder) help seeking behaviors. Method Individual virtual interviews (N = 40) were conducted from August 2018 to April 2019 with a nationwide sample of veterans who had a recent non-fatal suicide attempt. Participants were exposed to three messages in public circulation that promote help seeking during crisis and an interview guide steered open-ended conversations on the mechanisms of persuasive communication. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a constant comparison analytic strategy in Atlas.ti. Results Preferences for particular kinds of messages and features emerged during interviews based on a need for novel, emotionally intense stimuli among veterans. Specifically, messages with solemn themes and darker, more provocative imagery were believed to be particularly potent for engaging those at high risk. Although the goal of promoting help seeking was discernable, actionable steps (crisis line use) were not clearly communicated potentially preventing messages from increasing help seeking behaviors. Conclusion While messaging was perceived as capable of intervening to promote help seeking, participants reported distinct communication preferences and needs during periods of high risk. Findings underscore the significance of involving those with lived experience to inform the effective design and use of help seeking messaging targeting veterans at risk for suicide.