Suicide Prevention Initiatives
This aim focuses on reaching individuals who may not be aware of specific suicide prevention programs or messages. “Social marketing” refers to the process of conceiving, planning, pricing, promoting, and distributing a specific message to influence a target audience. Social marketing has been found to be an effective way of reaching students, as it has the potential to promote helping resources and to educate the general public on mental health, including ideas for positive coping/self-care/gatekeeper behaviors. The following initiatives have been implemented as part of this aim:
A centralized hub showcasing campus clubs, groups, organizations, and local events/activities. This web tool compiles, sorts, and filters information from existing Facebook fan pages of campus groups and organization to provide a private platform for students to “shop” around for opportunities to meet people online who have similar interests. This tool was created in collaboration with social marketing specialists and university researchers.
A campus-wide social awareness initiative informed by an initial student needs assessment survey administered to thousands of students at the University of South Florida (USF). This initial survey found that most students who took the survey had issues with stress, depression, anxiety, emotion regulation, and more. In response to these unmet needs, carnival-style games were set up as part of a campus-wide, weekly USF tradition called Bull Market where organizations promote themselves. The location was selected given that it was an area with a lot of foot traffic. Passersby were recruited by outgoing research assistants to participate in several interactive games that provided information on common myths and misconceptions about mental health and suicide, taught positive and healthy coping skills, and provided information for on-campus and community resources. Students were also able to win small prizes for participating at several tables (e.g., pens, notebooks, rulers, magnets). Those who participated in all or most of the games were eligible to enter into a raffle to win a grand prize. Grand prizes were donated by community sponsors such as Smoothie King, Jimmy Johns, and many more.
We have over a decade of experience working with public and private suicide prevention and mental health coalitions aimed at guiding project planning and implementation. For instance, we have partnered with the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council (SPCC) on two prior and one current state-level suicide prevention project to obtain feedback and recommendations, assess a community's unique needs, and also to review strategies for targeting and building partnerships with other systems to widen our reach within these communities. Across these projects, partnerships were developed with coalitions largely comprised of survivors of suicide attempts and loss such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), United Way, Federation of Families, and committees such as advisory boards comprised of stakeholders. By partnering with community members such as school boards, the Florida Council for Community Mental Health (FCCMH), and other groups, research and consumer-driven products (i.e., trainings, curriculum material, guidelines, and resources) have been developed.
Across several projects, in addition to direct community outreach efforts, project staff have been involved in the dissemination of family guides for youth suicide prevention, National Suicide prevention Lifeline cards, Zero Suicide kits and more. This has resulted in the dissemination of thousands of resources to members of the community.