Online Program

An innovative suicide prevention campaign using campus-based theater productions

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 4:30 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.

Lani Paulson Miller, M.S., Ph.D. Student, Department of Communication and Theater, Montana State University Billings, Billings, MT
Sarah Keller, M.S., Ph.D., Department of Communication and Theater, Montana State University Billings, Billings, MT
Danielle Arnoux, MPA Student, Department of Communication and Theater, Montana State University Billings, Billings, MT
Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and the suicide rate for youths in 2010 and 2011 was double the national average.  In order to address this public health issue among college students an innovative suicide prevention campaign that used campus-based theater productions was implemented in 2014 at a state-funded 4-year university in Montana.  The theater project, which was written and acted by college students, was designed to highlight suicide prevention resources and enable college students to discuss emotions related to suicide and depression.  Prior to the start of the project the writer-actors received professional suicide prevention training. The writer-actors were then asked to share journal entries, stories, memories, songs, and poetry about the subject.  A director worked closely with the students to compile the original content into a single narrative and performance.  The play was performed to peers, followed by a professionally facilitated audience discussion about how students feel about suicide, depression, and accessing help.  Qualitative research was conducted using concept mapping techniques in order to better understand the impact of the theater project.  The results of four focus groups (n = 4) indicate an increase in participants’ awareness of suicide prevention resources and self-efficacy to access these resources. Participants also indicated there is a need to address the stigma associated with suicide and depression and that this theater project is one way to address that stigma.  The findings of this project have the potential to inform future suicide prevention campaigns on college campuses.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how theater performances can be used in suicide prevention campaigns. Describe how suicide prevention campaigns that use theater productions can be used in a university setting.

Keyword(s): Suicide, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the research director on a suicide prevention campaign for the past 2 years. I worked for the local public health agency as a Prevention Health Specialist and I was responsible for creating and implementing public health interventions. My scientific interests include research and evaluation of strategies for social marketing and community-based media projects that address behavior and attitude change.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.