17.1 Targeted campaign to prevent suicide

This measure is aimed to help people with suicide intent by encouraging help-seeking behaviour, and breaking a suicidal state of mind. This can be done by providing information about possibilities of psychological support or counselling, and perhaps more controversially, by reducing the attractiveness of the railway as a place for suicide on the long term. In particular contexts and depending on the message delivered by the campaign, this measure may also be used to raise awareness of suicide problems among the general public and to facilitate early interventions by people around persons at risk.
  • Effectiveness depends on having a targeted type of incident and audience. Both the target incident and the audience should be clearly identified in order to design the campaign as well as to assess its impact. This can be done through data collection and observation at site. Collaborative approach involving stakeholders has been also emphasized as a success factor.
  • Working with suicide prevention and/or mental health charities in the design of the campaign can ensure appropriate messages are delivered.
  • The message to rail users should be that the posters are there because stations are great places to support communities, rather than being a location where people have taken their lives.
  • The posters should encourage help seeking behaviour, rather than directly discouraging suicide.
  • Avoid directly associating the railway station with suicide as this may highlight a location where someone can take their own life.
  • Fast decline expected; needs to be repeated for durable effect.
  • Be aware that sometimes in an environment your main language is not the only spoken one. So maybe your text on flyers, billboards or messages in community centres should also be in foreign languages. In this sense, pay special attention to the areas with high ethnic minority populations. However, you must also manage expectations: if someone feeling suicidal sees a poster written in a foreign language and then makes a call to the emergency number, what happens if the operator answering the phone only speaks the national language?
  • Acceptance may depend on the target incident as well as on the approach chosen to deliver the message. For example, fear appeals (using explicit pictures of crashes, casualties, injuries and blood, and the related emotions of pain, sorrow and grief of victims and relatives) might have contrasted effects depending on the culture and the group.
  • For poster campaigns at stations there can be issues regarding usage of advertising space for suicide prevention posters.
  • If the rail network is franchised different franchised stations may have their own brand guidelines that prohibit perceptively ‘negative’ advertising in favour of a friendly and welcoming station environment. Rail industry engagement is therefore necessary in planning.
  • Try to cooperate with national helplines or psychiatric institutions.
  • A media campaign has virtually no effect if it is not combined with other measures. It is recommended to reinforce information campaigns by combining them with security patrols, engineering measures (such as fencing) or safety and emergency information at stations, or with educational measures (gatekeeper training).
  • Technologies like websites, mobiles devices etc. may provide new access to targeted audiences. They can also decrease costs related to media coverage.
  • In the domain of road safety, Hoekstra & Wegman (2011) have emphasized that the potential effectiveness of campaign depends on (1) the baseline of the behaviour to be influenced, (2) whether or not suitable alternatives are provided to the audience to deal with the dangers that a behaviour present, (3) the combination with other measures such as enforcement, education, personal communication, etc.
  • Krysinska & De Leo (2008) report on “indirect evidence” to support media campaigns to prevent suicide.
  • According to an internal analysis in Belgium, such a campaign lowers the barrier to proceed to suicide on the railway.
  • Several different mass media campaigns (i.e. commercials on TV and movie theatres) have been set in Sweden, but there has never been any evaluation done.
  • There are few studies or interventions considering the ability to influence the choice of method (perhaps by the controversial option of explaining the potential delay in death and possible mutilation, without death) – (Mishara, 2007).

last update: 2019-07-19 Print