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Arendt, Florian; Till, Benedikt; Niederkrotenthaler, Thomas (2016): Effects of Suicide Awareness Material on Implicit Suicide Cognition: A Laboratory Experiment. In: Health Communication, Vol. 31, No. 6: pp. 718-726
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Abstract

In spite of the increasing adoption of suicide awareness campaigns to prevent suicide, little is known about the effective construction of awareness messages used and on their impact on suicidal cognition. We hypothesized that media reporting on an individual overcoming a suicidal crisis increases the automatic association between life and self. University students (N=112) were randomly allocated to one of three groups in a laboratory experiment. Participants allocated to treatment group 1 or group 2 read awareness material about a person coping with suicidal ideation by getting professional help. The only difference between the two groups was the amount of social similarity (low vs. high) between the protagonist and the participants. The control group read an article unrelated to suicide. Awareness material increased implicit cognition in terms of a strengthening of self-life associations. This effect was restricted to participants scoring low on wishful identification with the suicidal protagonist. This finding suggests that only individuals who do not wishfully identify with a protagonist going through difficult life circumstances benefit from the awareness material in terms of suicidal cognition. These findings provide a rich basis for further research and have potentially high relevance to the construction of suicide-awareness messages.