Effective suicide prevention campaign material for young people: A randomised controlled trial
Professor Jane Pirkis
61 3 8344 0647
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.
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.
Jo Robinson (Orygen Youth Research Centre)
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 Georgia Cox (Orygen Youth Research Centre)
Australian Rotary Health
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