The safety and acceptability of delivering an online intervention to secondary students at risk of suicide: findings from a pilot study

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Abstract

Background:

Suicide-related behaviour is a major problem among adolescents. Yet relatively few studies have tested the efficacy, acceptability and safety of interventions for this population. We developed and pilot tested an online intervention for at-risk school students, which has led to reduced suicidal ideation, hopelessness and depressive symptoms. The aims of this study were to examine the safety and acceptability of the programme, and to determine which components were found to be most helpful and enjoyable.

Methods:

This pilot study employed a pre-test/post-test design, with an 8-week intervention phase. Participants were assessed immediately before, and immediately after the intervention. Participants were also asked to complete a weekly questionnaire immediately after the intervention, and again 2 days later assessing suicidal ideation and distress.

Results:

Twenty-one young people completed the intervention. Overall, the intervention did not lead to increases in suicidal ideation or distress. Participants reported enjoying the programme, in particular watching the video diaries and completing the activities, and said they would recommend the programme to a friend. Overall, the cognitive components of the programme were found to be most helpful.

Conclusions:

Overall, the programme appeared to be a safe and acceptable intervention for at-risk adolescents. This was a small, pilot study so we need to interpret the results with caution. However, the findings are promising and suggest that young people at risk of suicide can safely be included in trials as long as adequate safety procedures are in place. The programme is now being tested in a randomized controlled trial.

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