Suicide literacy predicts the provision of more appropriate support to people experiencing psychological distress

Tegan Cruwys, Soontae An, Melissa Xue Ling Chang, Hannah Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Mental health literacy has been hailed as a public health priority to reduce stigma and increase help seeking. We examined the effect of suicide literacy on the type of help provided to those experiencing suicidal ideation. A community sample of 363 Australians were randomly assigned to read one of three messages from a member of their social network (the target). The target reported symptoms consistent with either (1) subclinical distress, (2) clinical depression, or (3) suicidal ideation. Participants were most likely to recommend social support and least likely to recommend professional help. Suicide literacy interacted with the target's presentation, such that participants with higher suicide literacy who considered a suicidal target were less likely to recommend self-help or no action, and more likely to recommend professional help. Suicide literacy was also associated with lower suicide stigma, and unexpectedly, this indirectly predicted more reluctance to recommend professional help. Overall, results indicated that the relationship between mental health literacy, stigma, and provision of help is not straightforward. While suicide literacy was associated with greater sensitivity to a person's risk of suicide, it also predicted fewer recommendations for professional help overall, partly due to the stigma associated with seeking professional help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume264
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Help seeking
  • Mental health literacy
  • Mental health stigma
  • Social support

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