Suicide literacy, suicide stigma and help-seeking intentions in Australian medical students

Wen I. Chan, Philip Batterham*, Helen Christensen, Cherrie Galletly

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    68 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: The purpose of this study was to measure levels of suicide literacy and stigma amongst Australian medical students in comparison to a general university population, and to assess medical students' help-seeking intentions. Method: A cross-sectional survey was administered to 165 currently-enrolled Australian National University (ANU) postgraduate medical students and 54 final year undergraduate medical students at the University of Adelaide. These samples were compared to another sample of 676 general members of the ANU, undertaken six months earlier. Results: Final year postgraduate and undergraduate students had significantly higher levels of mental health literacy (measured using the Literacy of Suicide Scale) than other medical students or general university staff and students. Suicide stigma (measured using the Stigma of Suicide Scale) was comparable across the samples. Less exposure to suicide was associated with greater stigma and increased intentions of informal help seeking. Students who normalised suicide had significantly lower intentions of seeking help for thoughts of suicide. Conclusions: The findings indicate that exposure to suicidal people through clinical experience may improve knowledge about suicide but may lead to more negative attitudes toward informal help-seeking. The suicide prevention curriculum should aim to raise mental health literacy levels, reduce stigmatising attitudes and limit the normalisation of suicide.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-139
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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