Relationship between events and caller behaviour to helplines: an intervention analysis

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Study objectives: Highly publicized media reports of suicide can increase distress, suicidal ideation and ‘copy-cat’ suicides amongst the public which may lead to a rise in help-seeking behaviour. The main objective of this study is to determine whether there is a relationship between explicit media reports of suicides and crisis helpline call attempts or new callers seeking help. A secondary objective is to explore quantitative changes in caller behaviour following media reporting of a suicide.
Methods: Interrupted time series analysis was carried out using call data from a national crisis helpline, Samaritans Ireland, to determine if there were significant changes in number of call attempts (a sequence of calls made by a caller to “get through” to a volunteer) and number of new callers in the 3 weeks before and after the events. Comparative analysis of caller behaviour was conducted for two events: a highly publicized celebrity suicide and a local murder-suicide in Ireland. K-means clustering was used to determine which caller types were impacted by such events.
Results: The number of call attempts significantly increased in the days after both events, and the number of new callers also significantly rose in the days following both events. High profile suicides or local events where death by suicide occurred may encourage help-seeking behaviour, or increase distress resulting in different impact on the crisis helpline service. Messages within the media that encourage help-seeking and signposting to relevant services may be important in alleviating the levels of distress within the public after reporting of these events.
Conclusion: Our findings have implications on how stories of this nature are reported by the media and may be used to inform media guidelines. The results indicate media reporting of both types of events does have a significant impact on the number of call attempts made to the service and a significant impact on the number of new callers contacting the service, within the following days after a publicized suicide.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Sept 2021
EventIASP World Congress - Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 21 Sept 202124 Sept 2021


ConferenceIASP World Congress
CityGold Coast
Internet address


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