The impact of suicide prevention gatekeeper training on college students
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Despite its potential to enhance the mental health of college student populations, the efficacy of gatekeeper programs in connecting suicidal students with professional help is unclear. Potential negative side effects of peer helping programs, such as gatekeeper training, are rarely examined and there is not a sufficient body of evidence documenting the efficacy or safety of peer helping programs, despite their widespread use. The challenge of implementing a safe and effective peer based gatekeeper campus suicide prevention effort lies in balancing the benefits of connecting suicidal students to professional help more often and sooner, with the potential adverse mental health impacts of participation on gatekeepers. This study examines how a gatekeeper training program might increase suicidal student help seeking and measures the mental health impact of participation on Resident Assistants (RAs) trained in suicide prevention. This study will explore whether a more intensive helping role by the RA amplifies the effect of referring and securing professional help for suicidal students. This study also measures how differing the intensity of help provided by RAs impacts the gatekeepers’ own stress and suicidality levels. RAs will be trained under high versus low intensity helping conditions. RAs in the low intensity helping condition will be trained to identify potentially suicidal students and refer them for professional help. RAs in the high intensity helping condition will be trained to identify potentially suicidal students, engage them in a quasi-professional helping role, and refer them to professional help. This study will also explore whether promotion of telephone counseling as a helping resource will impact referrals to and utilization of professional help, either in-person or through telephone counseling.