Background: Young people commonly use social media platforms to communicate about suicide. Although research indicates that this communication may be helpful, the potential for harm still exists. To facilitate safe communication about suicide on social media, we developed the #chatsafe guidelines, which we sought to implement via a national social media campaign in Australia. Population-wide suicide prevention campaigns have been shown to improve knowledge, awareness, and attitudes toward suicide. However, suicide prevention campaigns will be ineffective if they do not reach and resonate with their target audience. Co-designing suicide prevention campaigns with young people can increase the engagement and usefulness of these youth interventions.
Objective: This study aimed to document key elements of the co-design process; to evaluate young people’s experiences of the co-design process; and to capture young people’s recommendations for the #chatsafe suicide prevention social media campaign.
Methods: In total, 11 co-design workshops were conducted, with a total of 134 young people aged between 17 and 25 years. The workshops employed commonly used co-design strategies; however, modifications were made to create a safe and comfortable environment, given the population and complexity and sensitivity of the subject matter. Young people’s experiences of the workshops were evaluated through a short survey at the end of each workshop.
Recommendations for the campaign strategy were captured through a thematic analysis of the postworkshop discussions with facilitators.
Results: The majority of young people reported that the workshops were both safe (116/131, 88.5%) and enjoyable (126/131, 96.2%). They reported feeling better equipped to communicate safely about suicide on the web and feeling better able to identify and support others who may be at risk of suicide. Key recommendations for the campaign strategy were that young people wanted to see bite-sized sections of the guidelines come to life via shareable content such as short videos, animations, photographs, and images. They wanted to feel visible in campaign materials and wanted all materials to be fully inclusive and linked to resources and support services.
Conclusions: This is the first study internationally to co-design a suicide prevention social media campaign in partnership with young people. The study demonstrates that it is feasible to safely engage young people in co-designing a suicide prevention intervention and that this process produces recommendations, which can usefully inform suicide prevention campaigns aimed at youth. The fact that young people felt better able to safely communicate about suicide on the web as a result of participation in the study augurs well for youth engagement with the national campaign, which was rolled out across Australia. If effective, the campaign has the potential to better prepare many young people to communicate safely about suicide on the web.