Year: 2023 Source: Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. (2020). 54(4), 382– 392. DOI: 10.1177/0004867419885450 SIEC No: 20230954
Objectives: The aims of this study were to assess evidence for a novel, universal mental health literacy programme in the school setting (teen Mental Health First Aid) as an intervention to improve peer support towards adolescents at risk of suicide and to examine whether participation in a school-based programme dealing with suicide was distressing to participants. Method: In a cluster randomised crossover trial, Australian high school students aged 15–17 years (N = 1605, 44.74% female, Mage = 15.87) received either teen Mental Health First Aid or a matched control physical first aid course. Data were collected before, immediately after and 12 months after training through online surveys assessing correct recognition of suicidality and intentions to help a fictional peer (John) who was depicted as experiencing depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts in a vignette. Students were also asked whether any information in the training or surveys was found distressing and completed a validated measure of psychological distress (the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale). Results: Students receiving teen Mental Health First Aid training were much more likely to report an increase from pre- to post-training in recognition of suicidality (OR = 1.97, 95% CI = [1.14, 3.39], p = 0.02) and appropriate first aid intentions towards a peer at risk of suicide than students receiving physical first aid (OR = 35.40, 95% CI = [19.86, 63.14], p < 0.001). Twelve months after training, most effects were still significant. Although a greater proportion of teen Mental Health First Aid participants self-reported feeling briefly distressed after the training, there was no evidence of greater distress at 12 months on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. Conclusion: teen Mental Health First Aid is effective in increasing recognition of and intentions to assist a suicidal peer. Although the open discussion of mental health first aid for a suicidal peer was distressing for some students, results suggest this was transient and not associated with harm. Future studies are required to ascertain whether these increases are indeed associated with better provision of support and prevention of youth suicide.