Resident Assistant Training Program for Increasing Alcohol, Other Drug, and Mental Health First-Aid Efforts

Dennis L. Thombs, Jennifer M.Reingle Gonzalez, Cynthia J. Osborn, Matthew E. Rossheim, Sumihiro Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


In college and university residence halls, resident assistants (RAs) are expected to serve as first-aid providers to students who may have alcohol, other drug, mental health, and academic problems. Despite this responsibility, evidence-based, first-aid programs have not been developed and tested for the RA workforce. The current study examined effects of an investigational first-aid program designed specifically for RAs. The online Peer Hero Training program is a novel approach to RA training in its use of interactive video dramatizations of incidents involving substance-using or distressed residents. A 9-month randomized trial conducted on eight US campuses compared RAs who participated in the Peer Hero Training program to RAs who received training-as-usual. Participation in the Peer Hero Training program significantly increased RA first-aid efforts for residential students who may have had alcohol, other drug, mental health, or academic problems 6 months after baseline. Compared with those in the training-as-usual condition, RAs in the Peer Hero Training program made more than 10 times as many first-aid efforts for possible alcohol problems, almost 14 times the number of first-aid efforts for possible drug use, almost 3 times the number of first-aid efforts for possible mental health problems, and 3 times the number of first-aid efforts for academic problems. There was no evidence that measured RA attitudes mediated the effects of the intervention. Results of this preliminary evaluation trial suggest that online training using interactive video dramatizations is a viable approach to strengthening RAs’ ability to provide alcohol, other drugs, and mental health first-aid to undergraduates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-517
Number of pages10
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2015



  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Intervention evaluation
  • Longitudinal research
  • Mental health first-aid
  • Resident assistants

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