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Building a Bystander Intervention Initiative to Enhance Mental Health

Health, Safety, and Well-being Wellness and Health Promotion
Marian Trattner Wake Forest University

The national increase in demands on college counseling centers illustrates the importance of addressing mental health on a population level through bystander intervention. NCHA national data highlights the concern: students indicate that stress, depression, and anxiety are among their top academic impediments (NCHA, 2013). At the same time, suicidal behavior is a major concern on college campuses. Over half of all college students have reported having thought about suicide at some point during their lives.

BeVocal, a university-wide, multi-issue bystander intervention initiative at the University of Texas-Austin, aims to address these issues in order to promote mental health on a population-level. This presentation will discuss how BeVocal fits into the larger comprehensive frameworks (i.e. The JED & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program or the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s comprehensive approach for mental health promotion and suicide prevention) used to address a student mental health continuum. Topics ranging from building resilience in students through mental health promotion to suicide prevention will be discussed. 

BeVocal is a university-wide, multi-issue bystander intervention initiative, to promote the idea that individuals have the power to prevent high-risk behavior and harm. The initiative aims to prevent harm and create a culture where students’ interpersonal relationships are enhanced by caring for each other's well-being while continuing to monitor or improve their own mental health. Further, the initative is being used as a model across the University of Texas System to connect campus partners and empower students to intervene in situations that may cause harm including student mental health distress.

Learning Outcomes

By participating in this session, attendees will:

  • learn research and history of bystander intervention and BeVocal on The University of Texas at Austin campus;
  • learn and practice the steps to bystander intervention as practiced by BeVocal and how these can enhance student mental health;
  • explore and discuss how to begin building an intervention program on their campus; and
  • consider how to expand their bystander intervention initiative on their campus to include mental health.
Course Length
Course Type
On Demand

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