Scholarly Journals Evaluate Samaritans’ Work

Samaritans is part of the oldest and most respected suicide prevention network in the world, with our approach and methods utilized in hotlines, crisis centers, education programs, support groups and related services in over 400 centers in 42 countries, and applied in countless cultural settings and care environments.

Samaritans has also been a major contributor to work by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), Befrienders International (“Reaching Young Europe”) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (participating in the U.S. Surgeon General’s development of the “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention” for example).

Samaritans has worked for 60 years in the suicide prevention and crisis response field throughout the world, having answered tens of millions of calls to our hotlines and responding to millions of people in distress; and training hundreds of thousands of health providers and caregivers.

Proving the Efficacy of Samaritans Professional Development Training

Samaritans public education suicide awareness and prevention training programs are some of the most respected and longest-running in the world, adapted and presented to lay and professional caregivers and health providers working in public and private schools, non-profit and government organizations, clinical and medical settings, prison facilities, etc.

The Samaritans of New York has trained over 35,000 individuals working with “at-risk populations” in the keys to effective suicide prevention and (what we refer to as) the befriending model, a structured form of humanistic practice that utilizes non-judgmental behavior, empathy, active listening and a focus on the person who is in crisis to assist them in alleviating their distress–a shorter version of the Samaritans hotline intensive training.

There have been thousands of participant evaluations that document the effectiveness of the Samaritans public education training but the organization welcomed the knowledge and experience brought by expert epidemiologists and researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine’s Departments of Psychiatry and Community and Preventive Medicine that resulted in the two journal articles summarized below.

Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, November 2006

Article: Program Evaluation of the Samaritans of New York’s Public Education Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training Program; Matthieu, M. M., Ross, A., & Knox, K. L. 

Advancing our goal to prove the value of our training methodology, the Samaritans of New York partnered with noted epidemiologist and researcher Kerry Knox, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, who undertook evaluation of our public education suicide awareness and prevention training program. The Brief Treatment article reports her findings that Samaritans’ training program “increased the abilities, awareness and confidence levels of people whose jobs it is on a daily basis to provide care, comfort and support for those who are in crisis and at risk for suicide.” The study found participants scored significantly higher on measures of perceived knowledge about suicide and self-efficacy to intervene with a person thought to be at risk for suicide after receiving Samaritans’ training (M ¼ 25.7, SD ¼ 5.9) than before (M ¼ 15.0, SD ¼ 6.1) (t ¼ _10.71, p , .0001). Read the article here

British Journal of Social Work, October 2010

Article: Training Outcomes from the Samaritans of New York Suicide Awareness and Prevention Programme among Community- and School-Based Staff; Clark, T., Matthieu, M.M., Ross, A. & Knox, K.L. 

“Training Outcomes from the Samaritans of New York Suicide Awareness and Prevention Programme among Community- and School-Based Staff” is based on evaluations of Samaritans training provided to NYC public school and government agency staff conducted by Monica M. Matthieu, Ph.D., LCSW, Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri. The study reported results that “indicate increased self-efficacy after suicide prevention training (M = 3.7, SD = 0.6) than before (M = 3.3, SD = 0.7) (t = -13.24, p < 0.05).” Read the article here

Documenting How Crisis Hotlines Help People in Distress

Two studies were funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to evaluate the effectiveness of suicide prevention hotlines in the U.S. (Samaritans served as a consultant on the development of these studies through our role as a member of the National Council for Suicide Prevention).

Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, June 2007

Article: An Evaluation of Crisis Hotline Outcomes, Parts 1 and 2; Gould, M., & Kalafat, J., et al.

“An Evaluation of Crisis Hotline Outcomes” conducted by Madelyn Gould, Ph.D., MPH, Professor in Psychiatry and Public Health, Columbia University and John Kalafat, Ph.D., Professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, et al. focused on “client and community outcomes,” basically the changes that could be documented in the “crisis state” and “suicide state” of callers.

The study–which measured individuals’ “Profile of Mood States” (POMS) at the beginning and end of a call and four weeks later–found “a significant reduction in all POMS from beginning to end” of a call and that callers’ emotional state and level of suicidal ideation continued to improve several weeks after their call was completed. They also found that suicide hotlines “are reaching seriously suicidal callers” and that “distress and suicidality decreases during and after the call.”
Read the article (Part 1)
Read the article (Part 2)

Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, 2005

Article: A Silent Monitoring Study of Telephone Help Provided Over the Hopeline Network and its Short-Term Effects; Mishara B. L., et al.

A second study, “A Silent Monitoring Study of Telephone Help Provided Over the Hopeline Network and its Short-term Effects,” by Brian Mishara, Ph.D., Director of the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia, University of Quebec, looked at both the approach and procedures followed by four suicide hotlines and evaluated the emotional state of callers at the beginning and end of calls through a “silent monitoring” process.

This study found that “people in need are calling hotlines” and a “supportive approach with good contact and directive style provide the best outcomes” (which is how Mishara has previously described Samaritans). The study also pointed out the importance and need for service consistency, following formal procedures and assessing every call completely (the same guidelines emphasized in Samaritans hotline training).

Utilizing Samaritans Befriending Model to Help At-Risk Teens

New York Health Sciences Journal, 1994

Article: Preventing Teenage Suicide–The Samaritans Befriending Model

Samaritans of New York began working with “at-risk” youth over 25 years ago, focusing on destigmatizing suicide and providing them with an understanding of the universality of the problem as well as coping tools and resources to help themselves and others. The Director of Samaritans Public Education program provided suicide awareness and prevention workshops to students at every New York City public high school and countless community-based and government agencies that served at-risk youth, including runaways, victims of sexual abuse and violence, those in corrections facilities, youth dealing with sexual identity issues, alcohol and substance abuse, trauma and other problems.

Tied to national findings by the Harris Poll that reported increases in the levels of adolescent suicide attempts and ideation and a public education campaign by Blue Cross in NYC (with Samaritans involvement), our Director was asked to provide insight into the challenges that were being faced in advancing teenage suicide prevention education and share the approach, methodology and materials that were being used by Samaritans in the delivery of its youth education efforts, utilizing his experience engaging a group of over 100 teenagers following the suicide of an inmate at an alternatives-to-incarceration facility in the Bronx as a point of departure. Read the article here