The impact of a suicide prevention awareness campaign on stigma, taboo and attitudes towards professional help-seeking

Margot C.A. van der Burgt*, Aartjan T.F. Beekman, Adriaan W. Hoogendoorn, Guus Berkelmans, Gerdien Franx, Renske Gilissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: In 2017, the European Alliance against Depression (EAAD) was introduced in The Netherlands through the creation of six Suicide Prevention Action Networks (SUPRANET Community). The intervention was launched with a national suicide prevention awareness campaign. This campaign aims to encourage the general public to talk about suicide. This study aimed to gain insight into the effectiveness of the campaign in achieving attitudinal change in the general public, as stigmas related to mental health disorders and -services are an important reason for insufficient help-seeking. Methods: A repeated cross-section design, using general population surveys (N = 6,773) to measure key variables over time. The survey includes questions on socio-demographic variables, campaign visibility, brand awareness of the Dutch helpline, perceived taboo on suicide, attitudes towards depression and help-seeking. Results: The public awareness campaign was predominantly visible among the younger generation. Respondents who indicated having seen the public awareness campaign showed more openness towards seeking professional help and were considerably more likely to be familiar with the Dutch helpline than those who reported not having seen the campaign. Campaign awareness also seemed to relate to a higher perceived taboo on suicide and a lower estimation of the value of professional help. Limitations: Due to the nature of the intervention, we used a quasi-experimental design. Self-report can lead to desirability bias, especially when measuring attitudes and stigmas. Conclusions: Our results strengthen the idea that awareness campaigns can make a contribution to informing the general public about mental health services and improving help-seeking behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-736
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume279
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021

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