Young adults' perception of suicide : an information-processing approach
Mueller, Michaele A.
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The purpose of the present study was to provide an initial assessment of whether or not a social-information processing model might provide a useful heuristic for understanding how young adults process and respond to suicidal information. A total of 377 participants, consisting of 171 males and 206 females, 18-24 years-old, participated in the study. Participants were provided a general description of a target peer as well as testimonies about the peer to read. Once participants reached a decision about the target peer they were asked to answer a series of open-ended questions about their perceptions of the problem, how serious the problem was, and to develop a list of possible solutions and goals. Participants also completed a series of questionnaires related to their willingness to help the peer and general attitudes about suicide. Personal characteristic variables such as gender, empathy level, and attitude toward suicide were found to play a role in how suicidal symptoms were perceived, participants' willingness to help the peer, and the types of help-giving behaviors they would enact. Additionally, empathy level and participant gender were found to play a role in the number of solutions generated in response to the peer. Finally, the amount of information participants encoded did not appear to have as much influence as was hypothesized. The implications of these findings for future research and for the development of suicide prevention programs are discussed.