Research projects

Suicide prevention among young people: Testing an Internet-based program

Principal researchers

Dr Jo Robinson

Dr Sarah Hetrick

Dr Georgina Cox

Mr Hok Pan Yuen

Ms Eleanor Bailey

Dr Sarah Bendall

Dr Simon Rice

Ms Kate Templer

Professor Jane Pirkis

Institution

Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Funding

$124,773

Award type

beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Anxiety

Project completion year

2017

Project brief

Reframe-IT was designed to be delivered by school wellbeing staff. In pilot testing there was a reduction in suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms and hopelessness, and an increase in problem solving and coping skills. The pilot study was small and uncontrolled, therefore the program required testing in a randomised controlled trial. The present study comprised two components:

  1. A randomised controlled trial that tested the impact of the Reframe-IT program on young people; and
  2. A qualitative examination of the acceptability of the program to school staff and young people’s satisfaction and experience of participating in the study.

The Reframe-IT intervention comprised eight modules and was delivered over a 10-week period. Each participant had access to his or her own personalised webpage accessed via secure login. Once each individual module was completed in the presence of the school staff member, participants were able to access it from home, 24 hours a day. The program took the form of an adult ‘host’ character that delivered standard CBT approaches verbally, and a series of video diaries made by young people. There were also two activities included with each module. The program had no social networking function.

All secondary schools in the study catchment area were invited to participate and a total of 18 schools were recruited across the study period. Students who presented to the wellbeing staff aged 14 to 18 and with any level of suicidal ideation in the past month were eligible to participate. In total, 50 students were randomised; 24 to the control group and 26 to the intervention group. Results showed reductions in suicidal ideation, depression, hopelessness and anxiety, and increases in problem solving ability, in both the intervention and control groups. While the improvements were larger in the intervention group, there were no statistically significant differences. It is possible that the non-significant results are due to the small sample size and resulting lack of power. Results also demonstrated that participants benefited from the intervention in terms of increased use of CBT skills, with those in the intervention group using cognitive and behavioural skills more so than those in the control group.

For component two of the study, three students and ten school wellbeing staff completed a semi-structured interview following participation in the study. Overall, feedback regarding Reframe-IT was positive.

The key limitation of the study was the poor recruitment of young people into the trial, limiting the statistical power of the study. Nevertheless, the study demonstrated the feasibility and potential efficacy of the Reframe-IT program, which was shown to be acceptable to young people and safe to administer.

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