Since the program’s inception, researchers have assessed the effectiveness of SOS Signs of Suicide by conducting several randomized controlled trials – an evaluation known as the “gold standard” of research studies.
SOS trials were completed in 2004, 2007, 2014, and 2016, evaluating a total of 5,400 students in grades 6-12.
Each trial compared the results of students who received SOS to a control group who did not participate in the program.
Evaluating the SOS Suicide Prevention Program (2004 & 2007)
Researchers measured the short-term impact of SOS using 4,000 high school students. Three months after half the group received SOS training, both groups completed a short questionnaire.
The group who received SOS reported 40% fewer suicide attempts, greater knowledge of depression and suicide, and more adaptive attitudes towards these issues. These findings were consistent in subsequent studies.
Sources: Aseltine, Robert H. Jr, PhD and Robert DeMartino, MD. (2004). “An Outcome Evaluation of the SOS Suicide Prevention Program.” American Journal of Public Health. Vol 94, No 3, 446-51. Aseltine, Robert H. Jr, Amy James, Elizabeth A. Schilling, and Jaime Glanovsky. (2007) “Evaluating the SOS suicide prevention program: a replication and extension.” BMC Public Health. 7: 161.
SOS Shows Promise as a Middle School Suicide Prevention Program (2014)
Researchers worked with 400 6th-8th grade students from diverse populations and backgrounds, with students completing a pre-test survey, then taking a post-test survey three months later.
Results showed that students who reported suicidal ideation in the pre-test before receiving SOS training were 96% less likely to report engaging in suicidal behaviors after participating in the program, versus their peers who reported previous suicidal ideation and did not receive SOS.
“This indicates that SOS may, for some students with suicidal ideation, interrupt the progression from suicidal ideation to more active stages of contemplation, planning, and attempt.”
Source: Schilling, Elizabeth A., PhD, Martha Lawless, BA, Laurel Buchanan, MA, and Robert H. Aseltine Jr, PhD. (2014). “‘Signs of Suicide’ Shows Promise as a Middle School Suicide Prevention Program.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 44(6): 653-67.
Further Evidence of SOS Efficacy & Effectiveness (2016)
Researchers sought to replicate prior SOS studies, using 1,000 9th grade students to further assess the program. Students completed a pre-test survey, then took a post-test survey three months later.
The results showed that students who received SOS training were approximately 64% less likely to report engaging in a suicide attempt than the control group.