Recognition and Referral Skills for RAs - Mental Health Problems

  • Thombs, Dennis (PI)

Project Details


[unreadable] DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): We propose to develop an interactive online program, Recognition and Referral Skills for RAs Training Program - Mental Health Problems, to train college and university RAs to approach, refer, and support residence hall students who may have mental health problems. During Phase I, we will develop and evaluate a prototype training program designed to strengthen RAs ability to link undergraduate residents who are experiencing psychological distress or behavioral problems with professional mental health services. The Theory of Planned Behavior will be used to guide the development of the program, which will be designed to train RAs to recognize, approach, refer, and support residents who may have a mental health problem. The program will provide RAs with: (a) concrete action plans for approaching a resident they have concerns about; (b) guidance on how to make respectful referrals to appropriate helping resources (including online resources); (c) suggestions for how to maintain an ongoing dialogue and positive relationship with these residents after the referral; and (d) to recognize their personal limitations in providing assistance to residents who may have mental health problems. The consumer of the program will be departments of residence life and housing at U.S. colleges and universities. In Phase I, we will conduct elicitation interviews, focus groups, and user groups with staff at 3 universities to develop content for the Recognition and Referral Skills for RAs Training Program - Mental Health Problems. We will rely on a specified, iterative process to construct the online program, including extensive feedback from an expert advisory panel, resident assistants, and residence hall directors. Our evaluation plan includes a pre-post test of change in resident assistant attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, behavioral intent, and user satisfaction. We hypothesize that participation in a quasi-experimental trial will increase RA scores on behavioral intent to approach, refer, and support residents who may have mental health problems. We also expect to find that those RAs who report greater satisfaction with the training program will have stronger behavioral intent to approach, help, and support those with mental health problems. To document a foundation for Phase II work, specific criteria are identified for establishing Phase I success. In Phase II, we plan to conduct a multi-campus, randomized trial to test the efficacy of the RA training program. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The development of an online training program would be innovative and commercially viable. We are not aware of any web-based application that provides training for RAs to recognize, refer, and support students who may have a mental health problem. Although mental health concerns and use of psychotropic medications to treat them are prevalent in the undergraduate population, the current state of RA training on these issues is inconsistent across America's campuses and at many institutions is woefully inadequate. The findings from a national survey of residence hall officials, conducted in support of this application, suggest that there is both a significant commercial opportunity in developing an effective training RA program and a societal benefit, i.e., better linkage of undergraduates with mental health concerns with professional treatment providers. [unreadable] [unreadable] [unreadable]
Effective start/end date1/06/0831/05/10


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