University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Assessment of a Pilot Peer Support Program for Suicide Prevention on a Medical School Campus: Impact on Awareness, Stigma, and Self-Efficacy for Outreach

Cassandra Balson, BS; Justin York, BS; David Cipriano, PhD; Jeffery D. Fritz, PhD; Sara Kohlbeck, PhD, MPH; Shane Huang, MS; Margaret Lieb, MS

WMJ. 2024;123(3); published online in advance Jun 3, 2024.

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With the continued rise in mental health concerns, including suicide on college campuses nationwide, many academic institutions have developed peer-support programs. Correspondingly, the Medical College of Wisconsin developed and evaluated Seeking Peer Outreach* as its pioneer suicide prevention initiative. Seeking Peer Outreach* is an innovative approach to provide all medical students near-peer support and outreach encouraging engagement and conversations in effort to reduce the stigma and isolation often associated with mental health concerns in professional education. This study explores the effectiveness and efficacy of Seeking Peer Outreach* – a 3-tiered peer-support system. A survey of medical students, faculty, and staff demonstrated that the program increased knowledge on suicidal thoughts and behaviors and improved self-efficacy in talking about mental health with peers. It also showed that effective training helps individuals gain confidence with mental health interventions and suicide prevention.

Author Affiliations: Medical College of Wisconsin – Central Wisconsin, Wausau, Wisconsin (Balson, York, Lieb); Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Cipriano, Fritz, Kohlbeck, Huang).
Corresponding Author: David Cipriano, PhD, MS, Director of Student and Resident Behavioral Health, 8701 W Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226, phone 414.955.8954; email; ORCID ID 0000-0002-0165-0684
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the assistance of Sofie Kjellesvig, Sadie Jackson, Meghan Peterson, Marissa O’Hair, Dana Warwick, Haley Daigle, Grace Buechel, Erin Gruber, and Rachel Glassford in the implementation of multiple aspects of Tiers 1 and 2.
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