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Crisis. 2009;30(3):128-35. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.30.3.128.

Suicide prevention with adolescents: considering potential benefits and untoward effects of public service announcements.

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Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.



Suicide is one of the most serious public health challenges; yet determining optimal methods for preventing suicide in adolescents continues to be an elusive goal. The aim of this study was to investigate possible benefits and untoward effects of suicide-prevention public service announcements (PSAs) for adolescents.


Adolescent participants (N = 426; 56% female) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) a billboard simulation, (b) a 30-s TV ad simulation, and (c) a no-information condition.


The results of this study suggest some benefits for the information conveyed by the TV ad (e.g., more knowledgeable about depression). Few benefits were noted for adolescents who were exposed to billboard simulation, and the results raised substantial concerns about possible untoward effects, particularly in adolescents who were exhibiting depressive or suicidal symptoms. Billboard viewers were less likely to favor help-seeking attitudes, perceived PSAs as being less useful, and endorsed more maladaptive coping.


More research is urgently needed so that well-intended efforts to prevent suicide can more optimally serve the desired goals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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