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, 7 (1), e14623

E-Learning to Improve Suicide Prevention Practice Skills Among Undergraduate Psychology Students: Randomized Controlled Trial


E-Learning to Improve Suicide Prevention Practice Skills Among Undergraduate Psychology Students: Randomized Controlled Trial

Marie-Louise J Kullberg et al. JMIR Ment Health.


Background: Despite increasing evidence of the effectiveness of digital learning solutions in higher vocational education, including the training of allied health professionals, the impact of Web-based training on the development of practical skills in psychiatry and psychology, in general, and in suicide prevention, specifically, remains largely understudied.

Objective: This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of an electronic learning (e-learning) module on the adherence to suicide prevention guidelines, knowledge of practical skills, and provider's confidence to have a conversation about suicidal behavior with undergraduate psychology students.

Methods: The e-learning module, comprising video recordings of therapist-patient interactions, was designed with the aim of transferring knowledge about suicide prevention guideline recommendations. The program's effects on guideline adherence, self-evaluated knowledge, and provider's confidence were assessed using online questionnaires before the program (baseline and at 1 month [T1] and 3 months after baseline). The eligible third- and fourth-year undergraduate psychology students were randomly allocated to the e-learning (n=211) or to a waitlist control condition (n=187), with access to the intervention after T1.

Results: Overall, the students evaluated e-learning in a fairly positive manner. The intention-to-treat analysis showed that the students in the intervention condition (n=211) reported higher levels of self-evaluated knowledge, provider's confidence, and guideline adherence than those in the waitlist control condition (n=187) after receiving the e-learning module (all P values<.001). When comparing the scores at the 1- and 3-month follow-up, after both groups had received access to the e-learning module, the completers-only analysis showed that the levels of knowledge, guideline adherence, and confidence remained constant (all P values>.05) within the intervention group, whereas a significant improvement was observed in the waitlist control group (all P values<.05).

Conclusions: An e-learning intervention on suicide prevention could be an effective first step toward improved knowledge of clinical skills. The learning outcomes of a stand-alone module were found to be similar to those of a training that combined e-learning with a face-to-face training, with the advantages of flexibility and low costs.

Keywords: digital learning; e-learning; randomized controlled trial; skills training; suicide prevention; undergraduate students.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: None declared.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Flow of students through the trial. T0: baseline; T1: 1 month after baseline; T2: 3 months after baseline.

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