Suicide literacy and suicide stigma - results of a population survey from Germany

J Ment Health. 2022 Aug;31(4):517-523. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2021.1875421. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Background: While a growing number of studies analyze the magnitude and predictors of mental health literacy, little is known about suicide-specific knowledge and beliefs ("suicide literacy").

Aims: To examine suicide literacy among the German population and to investigate associations between suicide literacy and suicide stigma.

Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted in Germany (N = 2002, response rate: 47.3%). The literacy of suicide scale (LOSS-SF) was used covering the knowledge domains "signs," "risk factors," "causes/nature" and "treatment/prevention." In multiple regression analyses, associations between the LOSS-SF and the three dimensions "stigma," "normalization/glorification," and "depression/isolation" of the stigma of suicide scale (SOSS-SF) were examined controlling for several covariates.

Results: Respondents showed most knowledge concerning "treatment and prevention" (>80% correct answers). Lower suicide literacy was found in the domains "risk factors" (33-60% correct answers) and "signs for suicidal ideation" (45-53%). Suicide literacy was negatively associated with age, while it was positively associated with education, own affliction, and personal contact. Moreover, suicide literacy showed negative associations with all three dimensions of the SOSS-SF.

Conclusions: There are deficits in suicide literacy in the German public that may increase suicide stigma. Addressing those deficits in information-campaigns and encouraging personal contact could help decrease suicide stigma.

Keywords: Germany; Suicide literacy; population survey; suicide stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Germany
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Social Stigma
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide Prevention*