Stigma and Suicide Warning Signs


The current study explored the relationship between stigma and suicide warning signs using a case vignette methodology. Three comparable vignettes were used varying only the essential warning signs, including heart attack, suicidality without specific mention of suicidal thinking, and suicidality with specific mention of suicidal thoughts and associated intent to die. After reading the vignette, participants responded to questions gauging urgency of response, along with their appraisal of the situation across six domains including: seriousness, time (how quickly should they respond), comfort 1 (how comfortable they were with the situation in general), sureness (how sure they were in their response), comfort 2 (how comfortable they were in implementing their response), and hopefulness (how hopeful they were that their response would be helpful). Consistent with study hypotheses, results indicated that participants were significantly less comfortable, less sure, and less hopeful when responding to a suicidal crisis when compared to a heart attack. In addition, participants were significantly less likely to access emergency services for a seriously suicidal individual in comparison to someone suffering a heart attack, instead choosing to talk with family and friends first. The potential moderating effects of family and individual history of psychiatric illness and treatment, along with current individual psychological symptoms, were also explored and discussed, with no significant impact uncovered. The importance of more targeted efforts to train individuals to not just recognize suicide warning signs, but on how to specifically respond, is emphasized. © 2013 Copyright International Academy for Suicide Research.

Publication Title

Archives of Suicide Research