Adolescent suicide is a major problem in most Western countries. One of the strategies that has received increasing support internationally to combat youth suicide are media campaigns, particularly in the form of TV public service announcements (PSAs). However, studies investigating the impact of PSAs are scarce. The aims of this project are to assess positive and negative effects (in terms of suicidal ideation, attitudes towards suicide, emotional well-being, and likelihood of help-seeking).
The project will be conducted in Vienna, Austria, over three phases. In Phase 1, we will run a school project for high school students to develop suicide prevention PSAs. In Phase 2, we will conduct focus groups with the participating students to analyze their experiences with the development of the PSAs. In Phase 3, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial of the best PSA, as assessed by an international jury. 288 16-19 year olds will be recruited from schools and randomly allocated to view (a) the suicide prevention PSA or (b) a control PSA on an unrelated health issue with similar stylistic features. At Time 1 (pre-viewing), participant will complete a socio-demographic questionnaire and a series of outcome measures (see below), including a measure of current suicidality. At Time 2 (immediately post-viewing), participants will additionally complete questionnaires about the PSA itself, and about identification with the protagonists. At Time 3 (four weeks post-viewing), participants will complete the outcome measures from Time 1, and the questionnaire about the PSA.
We will use the following measures: (a) Reasons for Living Inventory for Adolescents (to assess suicidality ― this is the primary outcome variable); (b) The Beck Hopelessness Scale (to assess current suicide risk for screening purposes at T1); (c) Mood subscale of the Affective State Scale (to assess mood), (d) Questionnaire on Attitudes Towards Suicide ( to assess attitudes about suicide); (e) Stigma of Suicide Scale (to assess stigma towards suicide); (f) General Help Seeking Questionnaire (to assess help-seeking intentions); (g) Identification Scale (to assess identification with the protagonists). Interaction effects of identification and vulnerability with regard to suicidality and the secondary outcomes will be analyzed.
The project is innovative in several ways: It uses PSAs that are produced by young people and therefore more likely to resonate with young people. Further, it analyzes both potential harmful and protective effects, and addresses the impact of vulnerability and identification on the effects of awareness materials. A further strength is the assessment of the sustainability of effects. The project will provide public health organizations with important knowledge on how to tailor video materials to the needs of young people, and will allow them to better balance the risks and benefits involved in suicide awareness campaigns targeting youth.