What messages are helpful in an online intervention for suicidal people?
Imagine people accessing suicide interventions online. Though more study is needed, online tools have the potential to make a big impact in mental health care. They can reach more people—especially those reluctant to seek mental health care, whether due to stigma or lack of local services—and encourage them to seek treatment. They can also be integrated into current treatment programs. The biggest challenge, however, is getting users who are experiencing suicidal ideation engaged with the site in the first place. Dr. Whiteside designed a study to find what kind of messages would be the most helpful to people experiencing suicidal ideation, as well as what kind of messages would encourage people to visit the site.
A five-member consultation group of people who have experienced suicidal ideation and/or behavior informed the development of 26 different invitation messages for the subject line of an email inviting people to the website, as well as other intervention messages.
To get feedback on the messaging, the researchers asked thirty-four individuals who had reported suicidal ideation for more than half the days in the previous two weeks to complete an anonymous online survey. The survey asked about the acceptability of email subject lines, brand names, video content, and other messaging, and also inquired about medical treatment for suicide attempts or self-injury.
The messaging participants most responded to included messages from people with real experiences, personalized messages, and expressions of caring. Participants preferred shorter content, evaluated email subject lines, and gave feedback that informed the branding of the site.
The study led to the creation of Now Matters Now, a suicide intervention site that includes messaging and videos by people who have experienced suicidal ideation. Some videos describe coping skills to manage intense emotions and suicidal ideation, others talk about roadblocks to recovery such as institutional, interpersonal, and internalized stigma. NowMattersNow.org launched on World Suicide Prevention Day and has already reached thousands of people from over 25 countries. This website highlights the value of including people with lived experience in developing interventions.
Publication from AFSP grant
Whiteside, U., Lungu, A., Richards, J., Simon, G. E., Clingan, S., Dazey, J., Snyder, L., Ludman, E. Designing Messaging to Engage Patients in an Online Suicide Prevention Intervention: Survey Results from Patients with Current Suicidal Ideation. Journal of Medical Internet Research,16(2):e42 doi:10.2196/jmir.3173.
“Understanding Attempts in Individuals who Report No Recent Suicide Ideation” 2014 – 2016 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (SRG 015013). Total funding: $90,000
“Pragmatic Trial of Population-Based Programs to Prevent Suicide Attempt” 2014 – 2018 National Institute of Mental Health (UH3 MH007755). Total funding: ~$1,612,560 x 4years
Dr. Whiteside is a Research Scientist with Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, University of Washington, Seattle and an invited member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Zero Suicide Advisory Group. Click here to read about Dr. Whiteside’s Postdoctoral Fellowship.
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