The efficacy of the “Talk-to-Me” suicide prevention and mental health education program for tertiary students: a crossover randomised control trial

Bahareh Afsharnejad*, Ben Milbourn, Maya Hayden‑Evans, Ellie Baker‑Young, Melissa H. Black, Craig Thompson, Sarah McGarry, Melissa Grobler, Rhonda Clifford , Frank Zimmermann, Viktor Kacic, Penelope Hasking, Sven Bolte, Marcel Romanos, Tawanda Machingura, Sonya Girdler

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Despite suicide ideation being one of the most frequently reported health issues impacting tertiary students, there is a paucity of research evaluating the efficacy of preventive interventions aimed at improving mental health outcomes for students studying at two tertiary institutes. The current study evaluated the efficacy of the “Talk-to-Me” Mass Open Online Course (MOOC) in improving tertiary students’ abilities to support the mental health of themselves and their peers via a randomised controlled trial design, comparing them to a waitlist control group. Overall, 129 tertiary students (M = 25.22 years, SD = 7.43; 80% female) undertaking a health science or education course at two Western Australian universities were randomly allocated to either “Talk-to-Me” (n = 66) or waitlist control (n = 63) groups. The participants’ responses to suicidal statements (primary outcome), knowledge of mental health, generalised self-efficacy, coping skills, and overall utility of the program (secondary outcomes) were collected at three timepoints (baseline 10-weeks and 24-weeks from baseline). Assessment time and group interaction were explored using a random-effects regression model, examining changes in the primary and secondary outcomes. Intention-to-treat analysis (N = 129) at 10-weeks demonstrated a significant improvement in generalised self-efficacy for “Talk-to-Me” compared to the control group (ES = 0.36, p = .04), with only the “Talk-to-Me” participants reporting increased knowledge in responding to suicidal ideation (primary outcome). This change was sustained for 24 weeks. Findings provide preliminary evidence suggesting that the “Talk-to-Me” MOOC can effectively improve tertiary students’ mental health and knowledge of how to support themselves and others in distress.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2022

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