Effects of Public Service Announcements on Adolescent Suicide Prevention

Article excerpt

Contributing Editor's Note: In this column, Crisis Management in the Schools Interest Group members summarize recent crisis management publications. The first study examines the effects of public service announcements on the prevention of adolescent suicide. The second study examines the relationship between loss and symptoms of emotional distress. The final study examines the relationship between sporting events and suicidal behavior.

Summarized by Gill Strait, predoctoral school psychology intern, Dallas Independent School District and University of South Carolina.

Klimes-Dougan and colleagues (2009) recentlypublisheda study in the Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention tided "Suicide Prevention with Adolescents: Considering Potential Benefits and Untoward Effects of Public Service Announcements." The study examined the use of public service announcements (PSAs) as a means of universal suicide prevention by experimentally evaluating both the positive and negative effects of a television ad and a billboard ad on adolescents' "(a) perceptions of the utility of PSAs, (b) knowledge of depressive symptoms, (c) normative beliefs, and (d) coping attitudes (helpseeking, maladaptive)" (p. 129).

Participants in the study included 426 students from three different high schools. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) TV ad condition (n = 144), (b) billboard ad condition (n = 164), and (c) no information condition (n = 118). Demographic information and a pretest screening of risk for suicide and depression were collected on all of the participants prior to the implementation of the prevention programs. Finally, all of the participants were asked to complete a Suicide Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ) following exposure to their assigned condition. The SAQ measured the following domains:

* Perceived utility of PSAs: participants' overall belief that PSAs are useful at reminding those with depression to seek help, their perception of who would benefit from PSAs, and their endorsement of different ways (e.g., ads via television, radio, billboard, etc.) to prevent suicide.

* Knowledge about depression: participants' recognition of common symptoms of depression.

* Normative beliefs: participants' estimation of how common it is for people their age to have suicidal ideations, attempt suicide, and complete suicide.

* Coping attitudes: participants' endorsements of help-seeking and maladaptive-coping strategies and their rating of their level of concern or distress from participating in the study.

Post hoc trends (p < .10) indicated that participants in the control group rated PSAs significantly more useful than participants in the billboard group. …