Effective suicide prevention campaign material for young people: A randomised controlled trial

Project Details

The overarching aim of this study is to build the evidence base for an effective public education campaign which raises community awareness of suicide and encourages help-seeking behaviour among vulnerable young people, without the risk of causing them distress or other forms of harm.

Project summary

Youth suicide is a major public health problem. One intervention that has received considerable attention recently is the media campaign. In suicide prevention, these campaigns have typically been public education campaigns rather than social marketing campaigns. There has been little evaluation to ensure that such campaigns do good, not harm.

This study aims to build the evidence base for an effective public education campaign which raises community awareness of suicide and encourages help-seeking behaviour among vulnerable young people, without running the risk of causing them distress or other forms of harm.  It will address two key questions:

  • Do certain media messages have positive effects (e.g., improving knowledge about risk factors and warning signs, encouraging help-seeking) and/or negative effects (e.g., perpetuating myths about suicide, triggering suicidal thoughts)?
  • Are these effects different for well-adjusted and vulnerable young people?

The study involves development and testing of three Community Service Announcements (CSAs) with different key messages, designed for television or cinema. 480 young people (aged 18-24) will be recruited from the general population and headspace, and randomly allocated to view one of the three CSAs or a control CSA on an unrelated public health issue. Participants will answer questions pre-viewing, post-viewing, two weeks and six months later. These questions will permit an examination of participants' responses to the various CSAs, and will enable a number of positive and negative outcomes to be considered (e.g., beliefs and attitudes about suicide, their own levels of suicidality and distress, and coping strategies they might employ if they or a friend were experiencing suicidal thoughts).

The study will make a significant contribution to knowledge about the value of public education campaigns as a suicide prevention activity. In particular, it will provide insights into the type of content that may be most useful.

Researchers

Professor Jane Pirkis

Jo Robinson (Orygen Youth Research Centre)

Dr Matthew Spitall

Professor Debra Rickwood (Clinical Leadership and Research at Headspace: The National Youth Mental Health Foundation, University of Canberra)

Professor Pat McGorry (Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne)

Dr Anna Machlin 

Dr Maria Ftanou

Dr Georgia Cox (Orygen Youth Research Centre)

Funding

Australian Rotary Health

Research Group

Mental Health Policy and Practice



Faculty Research Themes

Neuroscience

School Research Themes

Prevention and management of non-communicable diseases (including cancer), and promotion of mental health



Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Centre for Mental Health

Unit / Centre

Mental Health Policy and Practice