The Making of the University Life Café: Harnessing Interactive Technologies and Virtual Community for an Anti- Suicide Website for College Students

The Making of the University Life Café: Harnessing Interactive Technologies and Virtual Community for an Anti- Suicide Website for College Students

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-878-9.ch001
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Abstract

The building of an interactive, user-driven website for college students to promote mental health and wellness (and to combat suicide) has revealed important strategies in the construction of such a sociotechnical virtual learning environment. This project used a number of strategies to create allure to the site and to provide learning opportunities—through educational modules, virtual community mores of care for others, user interactivity, the support for student voices, and the use of artificial intelligence to enhance the security measures. Virtual learning environments that involve life-critical issues require an understanding of the domain field, potential site users, and thought-out strategies.
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Setting The Stage

The University Life Café is a new website that promotes mental wellness among university students, faculty, and staff, with a particular focus on suicide prevention. This publicly available site uses the power of social networking at its core to provide a sense of virtual community to members of the K-State community in particular. It delivers information on resiliency and protective issues against suicide through podcasts, audio files, images, text, and other types of contents. Users of the site who are K-State members may also access professionally created heuristics dealing with various aspects of mental health.

This site also strives to de-stigmatize communications about suicide, depression, and substance abuse and to encourage help-seeking behaviors. This site was co-developed with contributions from students, faculty, and staff; it involved partnerships from across campus. This site is one part of a comprehensive, campus-wide plan, which engages “students and faculty/staff, while respecting the race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, and belief system of every member of our campus community,” according to the grant. The site is not intended to be used in isolation.

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