Program

Jun 06, 2012

OVERVIEW

This
program aims to prevent suicide and self-harm through monthly postcards sent
from a mental health center to at-risk adolescents and young adults. A
randomized controlled trial found no impact of this intervention on suicidal
thinking, suicide attempts, or deliberate self-harm.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target Population:
Adolescents and young adults at risk for suicide.

This
program consists of sending monthly postcards to adolescents and young adults
who have been identified as at risk for suicide for one year. A similar
intervention has been found to be effective at reducing suicidal ideation and
attempts in at-risk adults. The postcards sent to youth include an expression
of interest in their well-being, a reminder of personalized “sources of help,”
and promotion of evidence-based self-help strategies. The self-help strategies
include: (1) physical activity, (2) early morning light exposure, (3) self-help
books, (4) websites, (5) relaxation techniques, and (6) reducing alcohol and
other substance use. This program is a low-cost way to reach out to youth at
risk for suicide, with the goal of reducing and/or preventing suicidal thinking,
suicide attempts and deliberate self-harm.

EVALUATION
OF PROGRAM

Robinson,
J., Yuen, H. P., Gook, S., Hughes, A., Cosgrave, E., Killackey, E., … Yung, A.
(2012). Can receipt of a regular postcard reduce suicide-related behaviour in
young help seekers? A randomized controlled trial. Early Intervention in
Psychiatry, 6,
145-152.

Evaluated
Population:

This study
evaluated the postcard intervention with a sample of 165 individuals (106
females, 59 males) between 15 and 24 years old (M = 18.6 years), who presented
for treatment at a community mental health center in Melbourne, Australia. To
be included in the sample, they had to be ineligible for services at the center
and have a history of suicidal threats, ideation, attempts, and/or deliberate
self-harm. Racial and ethnic information about the sample was not reported.

Approach:
Individuals were randomized to the postcard intervention or control group
following an interview with a research fellow about “sources of help” in times
of crisis. Both groups continued to receive treatment as usual, with the
intervention group additionally receiving 1 postcard per month for 1 year
following randomization. Self-reported suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and
deliberate self-harm were assessed at baseline, 12 months, and 18 months. At
baseline, there were no significant differences in suicidal measures between the
two groups. However, the intervention group had higher rates of substance use,
while the control group exhibited higher rates of anxiety disorders and
co-morbidity. At 12 months, 68 percent of the sample completed the assessment,
while 53 percent completed the assessment at 18 months.

Results: No significant differences were found between the postcard treatment and
treatment as usual control groups on suicide and deliberate self-harm measures
at 12 or 18 months.

SOURCES
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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References

Robinson,
J., Yuen, H. P., Gook, S., Hughes, A., Cosgrave, E., Killackey, E., … Yung, A.
(2012). Can receipt of a regular postcard reduce suicide-related behaviour in
young help seekers? A randomized controlled trial. Early Intervention in
Psychiatry, 6,
145-152.

Contact
Information

Jo
Robinson

Orygen
Youth Health Research Centre

Centre for
Youth Mental Health

The
University of Melbourne

Locked Bag
10, 35 Poplar Road

Parkville,
Melbourne, Vic. 3052

Australia

Email:
jr@unimelb.edu.au

KEYWORDS:
Adolescents (12-17), Youth (16+), Young Adults (18-24), Males and Females
(Co-ed), High-Risk, Clinic/Provider-based, Mental Health Other

Program
information last updated on 6/6/12.