The Impact of Suicide Prevention Public Service Announcements on Help-Seeking Attitudes: The Message Makes a Difference

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Bonnie Klimes-Dougan ; Nathan Wright ; David A Klingbeil (2016)
  • Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
  • Journal: Frontiers in Psychiatry (issn: 1664-0640)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00124, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00124/full
  • Subject: Help-seeking | young adults | suicide prevention | Public service announcements | billboards | universal prevention | Psychiatry | RC435-571

Abstract Suicide continues to be one of the most serious public health challenges. Public service announcements are frequently used to address this challenge, but are rarely sufficiently evaluated to determine if they meet the intended goals, or are associated with potential iatrogenic effects. Although it is challenging to assess the relative impact of different PSA modalities, our group previously noted that one billboard message failed to show the same benefits as one TV ad (e.g., Klimes-Dougan & Lee, 2010). The purpose of this study was to extend these findings to test critical aspects of suicide prevention billboard messaging. Although both simulated billboard messages presented had identical supporting messages, we predicted that the more personal billboard message, focused on saving one’s life, would cause more favorable help-seeking attitudes than the message focused on suicide. Young adult university students (N = 785) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions; one of two billboard simulations or a TV ad simulation. Help-seeking attitudes, maladaptive coping and reports of concern and distress were evaluated. The results of this study suggest some relative benefits in endorsement of favorable help-seeking attitudes for one of the billboard conditions - Stop depression from taking another life. Although further research is needed to determine what methods will alter the risk for suicide in the population, the results of this study provide a useful first step showing that some billboard messaging may favorably influence help-seeking attitudes.
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