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Audrey Zakriski

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This study evaluated the effects of the DORA College Program on college students’ responses to and desired social distance from an at-risk peer, self- and perceived social stigma associated with psychological help, knowledge of depression and suicide, and crisis response skills. The influence of participants’ gender and experiences with psychological distress and help-seeking on these variables was also examined. Fifty-six college students were assigned to either the DORA group or a control group. Participants then completed assessments before, immediately after, and one week following participation in either the DORA College Program or the control program. Results revealed that the DORA College Program decreased participants’ desired social distance from a distressed peer and perceived social stigma associated with receiving help, and improved crisis response skills and open-ended responses to the at-risk peer. No significant changes in participants’ self-stigma of seeking help or knowledge were observed. Additional analyses examining factors associated with these outcome variables found a gender difference in participants’ perceived social stigma associated with receiving help. Results also suggested that participants’ personal experiences with receiving help influenced their perceived social stigma and self-stigma of seeking help, as well as the likelihood of them advising the peer to seek professional help. Because research has consistently found that suicidal college students are most likely to turn to a peer, these findings have important implications for the use of peer-based approaches to prevent college student suicide and suggest that programs emphasizing peer intervention may benefit from targeting specific groups of students.



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