The impact of universal suicide-prevention programs on the help-seeking attitudes and behaviors of youths

Crisis. 2013;34(2):82-97. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000178.


Background: While the ultimate goal of adolescent suicide-prevention efforts is to decrease the incidence of death by suicide, a critical intermediary goal is directing youths toward effective sources of assistance.

Aim: To comprehensively review the universal prevention literature and examine the effects of universal prevention programs on student's attitudes and behaviors related to help-seeking.

Method: We systematically reviewed studies that assessed help-seeking outcomes including prevention efforts utilizing (1) psychoeducational curricula, (2) gatekeeper training, and (3) public service messaging directed at youths. Of the studies reviewed, 17 studies evaluated the help-seeking outcomes. These studies were identified through a range of sources (e.g., searching online databases, examining references of published articles on suicide prevention).

Results: The results of this review suggest that suicide-prevention programming has a limited impact on help-seeking behavior. Although there was some evidence that suicide-prevention programs had a positive impact on students' help-seeking attitudes and behaviors, there was also evidence of no effects or iatrogenic effects. Sex and risk status were moderators of program effects on students help-seeking.

Conclusions: Caution is warranted when considering which suicidal prevention interventions best optimize the intended goals. The impact on adolescents' help-seeking behavior is a key concern for educators and mental-health professionals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Cause of Death
  • Communication
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Peer Group
  • Social Support
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention*