Year: 2021 Source: International Journal of Mental Health Systems. (2021). 15(1), 36. doi: 10.1186/s13033-021-00459-x. SIEC No: 20210371

Background: Suicide is a significant concern in Australia and globally. There is a strong argument for training community gatekeepers in how to recognise and support suicidal people in their social network. One such training course is the Mental Health First Aid for the Suicidal Person course. This course was developed using suicide prevention best practice guidelines based on expert opinion (determined using the Delphi Method).

Methods: We evaluated the impact of attending the Mental Health First Aid for the Suicidal Person course on suicide literacy and stigma, confidence in and quality of intended and actual helping behaviours towards a person who is suicidal, and course satisfaction. Surveys were administered before and immediately after the course, and at 6-month follow-up. Data were analysed to yield descriptive statistics (percentages, means, standard deviations), with linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models being used to test the statistical significance of changes over occasions of measurement.

Results: We recruited 284 participants from workplaces and general community networks. The mean age was 41 years and 74% were female. 85% of people undertook the course as part of professional development, and almost half (44%) did the course because they had contact with a suicidal person. The majority (59%) of participants had previous mental health and suicide prevention training. The majority of participants held knowledge (suicide literacy) before undertaking the course. The major effect of training was to strengthen this knowledge. There was a significant improvement from pre-course (M = 1.79, SD 0.56) to post-course (M = 1.48, SD 0.82, p < 0.0001), which was maintained at follow-up (M = 1.51, SD 0.49, p < 0.0001). Confidence in gatekeeper skills significantly improved after the course and at follow-up (M = 3.15, SD 0.95 before the course to M = 4.02, SD 0.68 afterward and 3.87, SD 0.77 at follow-up, p < 0.0001 and p < 0.0001, respectively). The quality of intended helping behaviours significantly improved from pre-course (intended actions M = 4.28, SD 0.58) and to post-course (M = 4.70, SD 0.50, p < 0.0001) and were maintained at follow-up (M = 4.64, SD 0.41, p < 0.0001). There was significant improvement in some of the actions taken by participants to help a suicidal person from pre-course to post-course (e.g. asking about suicidal thoughts and plan, contacting emergency services). The course was highly acceptable to participants.

Conclusion: These results indicate that this course is an acceptable intervention that delivers a broad spectrum of beneficial outcomes to community and workplace gatekeepers.