Preventing suicide in Montana: a community-based theatre intervention

Sarah N. Keller (Department of Communication and Theater, Montana State University, Billings, Montana, USA)
Timothy Wilkinson (School of Business, Whitworth University, Spokane, Washington, USA)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Publication date: 9 October 2017



This study aims to examine whether a community-based suicide prevention project could increase willingness to seek professional help for suicidal ideation among young people.


Online surveys were administered at baseline (n = 224) and six months post-test (n = 217), consisting of the Risk Behavior Diagnosis scale; self-report questions on suicidality; willingness to engage with suicide prevention resources; and willingness to communicate with peers, family members, teachers or counselors about suicide.


A comparison of means within groups from pre- to post-test showed increases in self-efficacy for communicating about suicidal concerns with a teacher, school counselor or social worker; increases in self-efficacy for helping others; and increases in response-efficacy of interpersonal communication about suicide with a teacher, school counselor or social worker.

Practical implications

Young adults need to be willing and able to intervene in life-threatening situations affecting their peers. In step with narrative empowerment education, personal experiences can be used to communicatively reduce peer resistance to behavior change.


Health communicators tend to rely on overly didactic education and awareness-raising when addressing suicide prevention. This research shows the importance of direct and personal forms of influence advocated by social marketing professionals.



External support for this research was granted by the Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program of the National Institutes of Health, award no. P20GM103474.


Keller, S.N. and Wilkinson, T. (2017), "Preventing suicide in Montana: a community-based theatre intervention", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 423-440.

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