Suicide prevention action plan: public engagement analysis

Analysis of responses to our engagement paper on draft Suicide Prevention Action Plan. We were inviting comments between 8 March and 30 April 2018.

5. Action 4: Development of an Online Suicide Prevention Presence

5.1 The fourth action of this engagement process asked three questions relating to the development of an online suicide prevention presence in Scotland. Over 9 out of 10 respondents who answered question 4a agreed that an online suicide prevention presence should be developed (see Table 5). There was no noticeable difference in the balance of opinion between individual and organisational respondents, who were both in favour. A total of 214 respondents went on to provide an explanation of their answer in question 4b and many also gave additional comments in response to question 4c. These views are summarised below under key themes.

Table 5: Responses to Question 4a. Do you agree that we should develop an online suicide prevention presence across Scotland?

Yes No Don't know
n=259 93% n=6 2% n=13 5%

Note: 94% of respondents (n=273) answered this question.


5.2 A number of respondents discussed the benefits of an online suicide prevention presence in Scotland. For example, they acknowledged that online resources provide help and information to people who are feeling suicidal, can reach a wide audience, provide a level of anonymity and privacy, and reduce stigma. This was thought to be especially helpful for people who are more introverted, isolated or prefer to search online than to speak to someone in person. Others noted that online resources may be particularly helpful for certain groups, including young people, people with autism and transgendered people. Another benefit was the perceived cost-effectiveness of an online suicide prevention presence.

Online Service Suggestions

5.3 Some respondents felt that too few people are aware of existing online services for suicide prevention. As such, there were calls for more awareness-raising and improved effectiveness of campaign message delivery. Many respondents called for greater use of multimedia (e.g. videos, podcasts, instant messenger chats) and social media, highlighting that young people – one of the potential target groups – commonly use a range of social media platforms. Another popular suggestion was the development of apps, with work by ChooseLife in the North East of Scotland[4] cited as an example of good practice. Respondents commented on the importance of staying up-to-date with how people use the internet when developing an online presence, due to the pace of change with online technologies.

5.4 Another common theme was that an online presence should predominantly provide information and this information must be easily available and accurate. Some respondents noted the importance of online signposting to more traditional support, such as counselling and (round the clock) telephone helplines. Some respondents suggested using online advertising (e.g. through as Facebook adverts, Google Adwords or pop ups) or using data to target individuals with personalised messages. One respondent noted the success of a Samaritans initiative, whereby if someone performs a suicide related Google search, the Samaritans phone line number appears at the top of the webpage. Others felt that more use could be made of online forums, groups and web-chats. It was also suggested that online resources could be tailored to specific groups to produce maximum impact.

5.5 Others felt that online resources could be more of an educational tool, with one respondent suggesting online resources could provide training at a lower cost. Indeed, some thought that an online platform for professionals would be useful, for sharing of evidence, data and good practice.

5.6 Some respondents commented on the importance of co-producing materials, involving partners from the third sector, academia, private sector, social media experts, employers, schools and young people. Another popular comment was that those with lived experience should be involved in the design of online resources, potentially including personal stories, to produce more engaging materials. It was noted that any online interface should be as user-friendly as possible.


5.7 A number of respondents were more critical about the development of an online suicide prevention presence. The most frequent concern was that this should not replace face-to-face contact, which many saw as preferable. It was also stressed that any online suicide prevention presence (e.g. web-chat or forums) would need to be monitored and moderated to ensure its safety. Indeed, some respondents commented that social media can be a contributory factor to suicide, so this must be considered if asking people to engage with online platforms. There were concerns that unregulated information or advice could have unintended consequences, and there was a perceived need to ensure that information provided is accurate.

5.8 Some respondents questioned the true reach of an online presence, noting that there are at-risk and vulnerable populations (e.g. those in custody) who have limited or no internet access, or who are not IT literate. There were also calls to monitor and evaluate online tools for effectiveness, in order to provide the best online support available. Finally, some respondents commented that there is already an adequate online presence, and questioned whether creating new online materials was the best use of resources. It was suggested that a priority would be to link/unify the current online resources.


Email: Katie Godfrey

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