Suicide prevention using Google ads: Randomized controlled trial measuring engagement
Onie, S., Berlinquette P., Holland, S. Livingstone, N. Finemore, C., Gale, N., ... & Larsen, M.
Background: Studies have shown that individuals may search for suicide-related terms on the internet prior to an attempt.
Objective: Thus, across 2 studies, we investigated engagement with an advertisement campaign designed to reach individuals contemplating suicide.
Methods: First, we designed the campaign to focus on crisis, running a campaign for 16 days in which crisis-related keywords would trigger an ad and landing page to help individuals find the national suicide hotline number. Second, we expanded the campaign to also help individuals contemplating suicide, running the campaign for 19 days with a wider range of keywords through a co-designed website with a wider range of offerings (eg, lived experience stories).
Results: In the first study, the ad was shown 16,505 times and was clicked 664 times (4.02% click rate). There were 101 calls to the hotline. In the second study, the ad was shown 120,881 times and clicked 6227 times (5.15% click rate); of these 6227 clicks, there were 1419 (22.79%) engagements with the site, a substantially higher rate than the industry average of 3%. The number of clicks on the ad was high despite a suicide hotline banner likely being present.
Conclusions: Search advertisements are a quick, far-reaching, and cost-efficient way of reaching those contemplating suicide and are needed despite suicide hotline banners being present.