Published in Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, the study found that resources underpinned by a psychological theory, known as the Bystander Intervention Model, were far more effective in motivating people to act than other widely available resources.
Study author and La Trobe Psychology PhD student Karien Hill said, with the right knowledge and support, family and friends can play a vital role in preventing suicide.
“Research shows that, of the thousands of people who die by suicide each year in Australia, up to 90 per cent communicate warning signs to their friends and family.
“If people close to them were better equipped to identify the risks and had more confidence to intervene, we could potentially prevent many of these tragedies occurring,” Ms Hill said.
A total of 281 men and women participated in the study. One group had access to resources underpinned by Bystander Intervention Model (BIM), and the second group had access to resources readily available on the internet.
Ms Hill said the first group was significantly more ready, confident and willing to intervene if someone was at risk of suicide than the second group.
“According to BIM, five very specific steps lead to helpful behavior in any emergency situation: People need to notice risk factors, interpret them as an emergency, take personal responsibility to help, know how to help, and decide to help.
“At the moment if someone is worried about a friend who is at risk of suicide, and accesses online resources for support, at the most they might learn two of the five steps.
“The resources trialed in this study cover all of the five steps, and were shown to significantly increase people’s readiness, confidence and intention to help,” Ms Hill said.
Only 20 to 30 per cent of people at risk of suicide seek professional help. The vast majority access informal forms of support by indicating their distress to family and friends.
Suicide risk warning signs can be behavioral (e.g. withdrawal, preparing a will), verbal (e.g. saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’), or environmental (e.g. recent relationship breakup, shame/embarrassment).
More than 3,000 people die by suicide each year in Australia, equating to more than eight deaths per day.
Anyone concerned about a friend or family member's mental well-being, or risk of suicide, can access the Five Step Information Sheet [PDF 290KB] developed as part of this study.
Or for support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Media Contact: Kate O’Connor – k.o’firstname.lastname@example.org – 0436 189 629