Belief in suicide prevention myths and its effect on helping: a nationally representative survey of Australian adults
AuthorNicholas, A; Niederkrotenthaler, T; Reavley, N; Pirkis, J; Jorm, A; Spittal, MJ
Source TitleBMC PSYCHIATRY
University of Melbourne Author/sPirkis, Jane; Spittal, Matthew; Reavley, Nicola; Jorm, Anthony; Nicholas, Angela
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsNicholas, A., Niederkrotenthaler, T., Reavley, N., Pirkis, J., Jorm, A. & Spittal, M. J. (2020). Belief in suicide prevention myths and its effect on helping: a nationally representative survey of Australian adults. BMC PSYCHIATRY, 20 (1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02715-9.
Access StatusAccess this item via the Open Access location
Open Access at PMChttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7296674
ARC Grant codeARC/FT180100075
BACKGROUND: Debunking suicide myths, such as 'asking someone about suicide could make them start thinking about it' is a common strategy in suicide prevention education. However, there has been little research investigating the relationship between suicide myths and helping behavior toward people at risk of suicide. We aimed to identify sociodemographic characteristics associated with belief in eight common suicide myths and the associations between beliefs in these myths and helping intentions and behaviors toward a family member or friend in severe distress or at risk of suicide. METHODS: We conducted a random digit dial (mobile and landline) survey of 3002 Australian adults. We asked respondents about their beliefs in suicide myths, intentions to help a person in severe distress or at risk of suicide presented in a vignette, and helping actions taken toward such a person in the last 12 months. We weighted this data to be representative of the Australian population. Regression analyses were undertaken to determine associations between sociodemographic and exposure characteristics and beliefs in suicide myths, and between beliefs in myths and helping intentions and behaviors. RESULTS: Being male, speaking a language other than English at home and being over 60 years were associated with the strongest beliefs in suicide myths. The strongest and most consistent associations were found between belief in the myth 'asking someone about suicide could make them start thinking about it', risk assessment intentions and behaviours and intentions to undertaken actions not recommended for suicide prevention. CONCLUSIONS: Identifying those sociodemographic groups most likely to believe in suicide myths allows targeted intervention for suicide prevention education 'debunking' suicide myths. By isolating those myths that are most commonly believed, and their specific effects on helping intentions and behaviors, suicide prevention educators can target these specific myths to have the most effect on helping behavior. Our findings suggest that targeting the myth 'asking someone about suicide could make them start thinking about it' may have the greatest effects on helping behavior, and that men, those aged over 60 years and those speaking a language other than English at home could most benefit from myth 'debunking'.
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