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Exposure to a Mnemonic Interferes with Recall of Suicide Warning Signs in a Community-Based Suicide Prevention Program


  • We thank Robert Seegmiller and Revonda Grayson—neuropsychologists—for their assistance in formulating the discussion on memory functioning.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Air Force, or the U.S. Government.

Capt, USAF, BSC, 59 MHS/SGOJC, Kelly Family Medicine Clinic, 204 Paul Wagner Dr., San Antonio, TX 78241; E-mail:


The incremental impact of adding a mnemonic to remember suicide warning signs to the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program (AFSPP) community awareness briefing was investigated with a sample of young, junior-enlisted airmen. Participants in the standard briefing significantly increased their ability to list suicide warning signs and improved consistency with an expert consensus list, whereas participants in the standard briefing plus mnemonic demonstrated no learning. Both groups demonstrated positive changes in beliefs about suicide. Results suggest that inclusion of the mnemonic in the AFSPP briefing interfered with participants' ability to learn suicide warning signs, and that increased confidence in the perceived ability to recognize suicide risk is not related to actual ability to accurately recall warning signs.