What do we mean when we say that SOS Signs of Suicide is an evidence-based suicide prevention program? Due to the fact that SOS aims to prevent suicide in middle and high school-aged youth, it has attracted the interest of researchers, and there have been three randomized control studies on SOS. The results of these studies have shown positive results, validating the program’s purpose.
Below you can examine summaries of each study and find links to the original papers.
Evaluating the SOS suicide prevention program: A replication and extension
Summary: Significantly lower rates of suicide attempts and greater knowledge and more adaptive attitudes about depression and suicide were observed among students in the intervention group. Students’ race/ethnicity, grade, and gender did not alter the impact of the intervention on any of the outcomes assessed in this analysis
Aseltine, R., James, A,, Schilling, E.A., & Glanovsky, J. (2007). Evaluating the SOS suicide prevention program: A replication and extension. BMC Public Health 18(7), 161.
An outcome evaluation of the SOS suicide prevention program
It is clear from these data that the SOS suicide prevention program had a substantively important short-term impact on the attitudes and behaviors of high school–aged youths in high-risk settings. By significantly reducing rates of self-reported suicide attempts in the 3 months following exposure to the program, SOS appears to have had a substantial impact on the ultimate target of suicide prevention programs. Efficacy in increasing students’ knowledge of and promoting more adaptive attitudes toward depression and suicide also was demonstrated, and further analysis high-lighted the importance of these variables in potentially accounting for the beneficial effects of the SOS program on self-reported suicide attempts. Although further research is necessary to determine whether the effects of the SOS program are enduring, the short-term impact of this program on students’ attitudes and behaviors was noteworthy. This is the first school-based suicide prevention program for which a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts has been documented with a randomized experimental design. In contrast, significant effects of the SOS program on suicidal ideation and help-seeking behaviors were not observed. The fact that self-reported suicide attempts were reduced by a much greater extent than were thoughts of suicide is most likely a result of the SOS program’s relatively greater emphasis on action and behavior. Reductions in levels of suicidal ideation are expected to be an ancillary benefit of the SOS program, particularly if the program’s efforts to encourage active engagement and communication with peers about these issues fosters a general mobilization of peer support.
Aseltine, R.H., and DeMartino, R. (2004). An outcome evaluation of the SOS suicide prevention program. American Journal of Public Health 94(03), 446-51.
The SOS suicide prevention program: further evidence of efficacy and effectiveness
The current study adds to previous research evaluating the efficacy of SOS by replicating results from previous evaluations. Replication is rare in prevention re-search (Valentine et al.2011 ), particularly in suicide prevention research (Miller et al.2009 ). In addition, the current study addressed additional SPR standards and desirable features of prevention research outlined in Flay et al.2005 . As such, this study has strengthened and extended evidence that SOS pre-vents suicidal behavior, both planning and attempts, in vulnerable high school students, and has increased confidence for causal inference by including pre-test measures in the evaluation.
Schilling, E.A., Aseltine, R.H. & James, A. (2016). The SOS suicide prevention program: further evidence of efficacy and effectiveness. Prevention Science 17(2), 157-66.