Degree Granting Department
Marc S. Karver, Ph.D.
Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.
Ellis Gesten, Ph.D.
Krista Kutash, Ph.D.
Vicky Phares, Ph.D.
Gatekeeper, Depression, Prevention, Mental Health, Help-Seeking
The role of peer gatekeepers is crucial in connecting individuals at risk for suicide
related behaviors to mental health service providers. However, limited research has
focused on the role of peers as potential helpers for those at-risk. The current study
utilized a mixed experimental and correlational design to examine predictors of female
college students’ referral intentions following hypothetical interactions with peers at-risk
for suicide related behavior. More specifically, the current project examined the utility of
an extended Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) model of peer-referral intentions. In
addition to the original TPB constructs of attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived
behavioral control associated with referring a peer to a mental health professional,
attitudes towards seeking professional help, perceived stigma associated with receiving
professional psychological help, emotional competence, and symptom severity were
incorporated into an extended TPB model. The sample included 284 female college
students. Participants completed computer-based questionnaires both before and after the
presentation of a theoretically and empirically informed vignette describing a peer who
was characterized as low, moderate, or high risk for suicide related behavior. The results
of this study suggest the utility of applying an extended TPB model to intentions to refer
at-risk peers for mental health services. The final trimmed model, which included all of
the aforementioned constructs except symptom severity, accounted for 78.9% of the
variance in referral intentions. The findings indicate that, in particular, preventative
interventions would likely benefit from emphasizing the role of attitudes towards
receiving mental health services, attitudes towards peer referral, and subjective norms
regarding peer referral, in order to maximize the role of peers as gatekeepers for college
students in distress. Incorporating the findings from this study with findings from future
research will hopefully lead to more informed, empirically-based interventions for
enhancing peer referrals.
Scholar Commons Citation
Tarquini, Sarah J., "Predictors of Peer Referral Intentions for Individuals at Risk for Suicide Related Behavior: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.