The University of Wyoming is working with a new program aimed at encouraging people in the college community to do something if they see problematic behaviors taking place.
The Step Up! Bystander Intervention Training Program is geared toward empowering everyone in the UW community with the skills necessary to deescalate potentially dangerous situations.
“Our goals for this training are to educate, motivate and empower you — whether you’re students or not — to feel like you can actively step in if you see something happening, or at least act even if it’s not stepping in,” said AWARE graduate assistant Luci Dumas during a Step Up! training session Feb. 7. “If you see something, say something, do something — that’s our pretty simple goal with this training.”
Step Up! is part of UW’s AWARE program. AWARE — standing for alcohol wellness alternatives, research and education — is designed to improve personal wellness on campus, and its leaders hope implementing the program will help continue those efforts.
“We are looking at a continuing comprehensive approach to health and wellness, and bystander intervention is recognized as a program that enriches that,” said Monica Keele, AWARE program coordinator.
Step Up! was developed by the University of Arizona C.A.T.S. Life Skills Program in partnership with the National Collegiate Athlete Association. UW joined hundreds of colleges, universities and organizations that use Step Up! materials.
The training is made available through a $13,600 grant from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association to fund alcohol awareness training. Since being implemented at UW in the fall, Keele said about 500 students on campus have received the training, including in departments such as athletics and resident life.
At some point in the future, Keele said she’d like to see Step Up! become part of every incoming UW student’s experience. She said she’s also hoping to see the program reach outside of campus.
“We’re looking to expand the program, not just to the UW community, but to our Laramie community,” she said.
AWARE is a part of the UW Counseling Center, where its efforts mainly focus on health choices regarding alcohol and drugs. However, Step Up! training covers a variety of problematic behaviors beyond alcohol and drugs, including sexual assault, relationship abuse, academics, anger, depression, discrimination, hazing, disordered eating and gambling.
“I think people are kind of surprised at the range that we have,” Keele said.
People at UW generally report lower rates of experiencing feelings such as hopelessness, loneliness or feeling overwhelming anxiety, according to 2015 data from the National College Health Association. And although fewer people at UW reported seriously considering suicide, more attempted suicide than the national average. In 2015, Wyoming ranked No. 1 nationally for suicides with 28.2 suicides for every 100,000 individuals, according the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
Dumas said many of the problem behaviors are often connected. Effective bystander intervention training could help in a variety of risky situations, she said.
“The reason we show these numbers is a lot of these things can lead to a situation where a bystander might need to get involved,” Dumas said. “It might be a suicidal student you’re working with, a suicidal staff member, person in the community, family member. Before it gets to that point, maybe they’re drinking to self-medicate. It’s really important these are experiences students are having and we may have to intervene at some point if we see something happening.”
And the methods of intervening are not limited to directly entering other’s interactions, Keele said.
“When thinking of just direct intervention where you jump in between, a lot of people use the example of a fight, and that’s not the route we want,” she said. “We want to say you’re thinking about all strategies.”
Most situations can be put somewhere on a spectrum requiring non-emergency and emergency intervention strategies, said AWARE graduate assistant Greg Sandman. In emergencies, Sandman said it’s critical to stay calm. Interventions where people become enmeshed could contribute to the risks, he said.
“Know your limits and walk away if it’s unsafe,” Sandman said. “Call someone or do whatever you can to make sure you stay safe.”
Non-emergency situations could include behaviors such as alcohol or relationship abuse, Dumas said. Considering the problem, barriers and possible goals while maintaining respect and setting boundaries are some of the strategies one should employ when determining whether or how to intervene, she said.
“If it’s relationship violence, knowing we have STOP Violence on campus and Safe Project in the community — just kind of knowing what the resources are … is important in more drawn-out, chronic situations like these,” Dumas said.
The training is designed to help bystanders discern what appropriate courses of action might be for a given situation. Some people tend to be more dominant in their intervention styles, while others might be analytical or empathetic, Dumas said. Ideally, an intervention style should be specific to each situation, she said.
“Knowing what you maybe naturally are more apt to be like is always important, and it’s a strength,” Dumas said. “So, what we hope you shoot for is to become more holistic and situation-oriented. That kind of comes along with … taking a look at the whole situational and looking at the big picture.”
There are several opportunities to participate in a general session of Step Up! training during the spring semester, including from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. today in Wyoming Union room 203. Go to www.uwyo.edu/ucc/aware/step-up.html, email email@example.com or call 766-2187 for a full schedule of upcoming sessions.