Date of Defense:
May 20, 2015
Background: Because of their association with suicide risk, the ability to seek help and to cope with depressive symptoms have been the focus of suicide intervention efforts. We evaluated several public service announcement (PSAs) to (1) determine if help – seeking attitudes and knowledge of maladaptive coping behaviors varied by type of PSAs; and (2), if there was variation by type of PSA, determine whether help – seeking attitudes and knowledge of maladaptive coping behaviors were moderated by s ex, religious affiliation, and/or experience with depressive symptoms and/or suicide attempts. It was hypothesized that help – seeking attitudes would differ by PSA type, and be moderated by sex, religious affiliation, and experience with depressive symptom s and/or suicide attempts.
Methods: We recruited from nine University – based behavioral science courses. All participants completed the demographic questionnaire, and then were randomly assigned to one of four PSA conditions: original billboard, alternati ve billboard, video, or no information. After a one – time brief exposure to a PSA, participants completed a questionnaire about their attitudes toward help – seeking and maladaptive coping behaviors in response to depressive symptoms. We used ANOVA to identify differences in these outcomes between PSA groups. We also conducted multivariable analyses to examine whether PSA exposure and outcomes differed by participants’ sex, religious affiliation, or previous experience with depressive symptoms and/or suicid e attempts.
Results: A total of 862 (78.8% female) young adult participants between the ages of 18 and 34 ( M = 21.9; SD = 2.8) years participated in this study. The video and alternative billboard were significantly associated with help – seeking attitudes , and the video was also significantly associated with endorsement of maladaptive coping behaviors. Sex and religious affiliation were significantly associated with help – seeking attitudes and endorsement of maladaptive coping behaviors, but they did not significantly interact with PSA to moderate the association with the study outcomes.
Conclusion: We found that participants exposed to the video PSA were more likely to endorse more help – seeking attitudes and fewer maladaptive coping behaviors than those e xposed to the original billboard group, suggesting that the video PSA is better at conveying the symptoms of depression and provided more information about services for treatment. We saw no evidence that the effects of PSA exposure were modified by person al characteristics, but sex and religious affiliation were associated with the outcomes. These results highlight the significant impact these personal characteristics may have on suicide prevention efforts.