An Innovative Online Video-based Intervention for Promoting Access to Mental Health Care and Reducing Suicide Risk Factors in the College Student Population

This project will focus on the development and assessment of a video series as an innovative mental health intervention for adolescents and young adults that are considered at high risk for suicide. This series was originally developed to target and educate the general population of young people on methods of promoting self-management and increasing resiliency. A key distinction between this intervention and alternative mental health resources is that the videos are highly engaging and resonate with adolescents and young adults. In this study, we will produce two new videos, which will address risk factors for high-risk college students (Aim 1), and conduct a small feasibility trial (Aim 2).

This project focused on the development and assessment of brief videos as an innovative mental health intervention for adolescents and young adults that are considered high risk for suicide. After extensive input from student focus groups, we produced two new videos, titled “Daury” and “Four Words,” that are intended to complement each other. The “Daury” video portrays a college woman who is struggling with depression and alcohol abuse, and is reluctant to seek help. The main purpose of the video is to convey a message that these struggles are common among college students, and seeking help is ultimately very important. The “Four Words” video emphasizes the power that a friend has to recognize signs of distress and to respond empathetically, to help someone seek help for depression and related issues that pose risks for suicide. We tested the videos in a series of online trials, beginning with simple trials designed to measure how much people are even willing to watch the videos when emailed to them. The final trial was a randomized trial comparing outcomes for students who were offered the videos versus a control group that was offered articles on the same topics from reputable sources. In this trial we found clear evidence that videos are more likely to be remembered and more likely to lead to the use of new coping skills, as compared to text articles, although no effects were observed for mental health symptoms, alcohol use, or use of mental health services. In future work the knowledge from this study can be used to: refine the videos; develop partnerships with other innovative intervention strategies (e.g., programs like University of Michigan’s Project Sync); conduct larger, multi-site studies; and maximize the reach of the intervention once the efficacy has been established. The impact of public health interventions is generally determined by the multiple of reach and effectiveness. By developing and evaluating a highly engaging approach, this new research has great promise to expand reach substantially on a population-level, and thereby enhance the impact of strategies that are effective at an individual level.