IHP 510 Case Study: University Suicide Prevention
For use in Case Study Analysis: Marketing Campaign
In a mid-size city in the upper Midwest, there was an alarming concern raised over the dramatic rise in attempted suicides and suicide rates at a local university. To discover the cause and explore potential solutions, the situation was examined by the local health department and the university health center. These groups enlisted the assistance of the university’s student advocacy group and St. Joseph Medical Center, the largest healthcare provider in the area, due to their extensive mental health services.
After a thorough and organized healthcare needs assessment, a meeting took place to review the data collected. The attendees were Kathy, the director of the local health department; Judith, a nurse practitioner from the university health center; Kevin, a student advocacy supervisor at the university; Sherry, the lead psychologist at St. Joseph’s mental health division; and Tom, the marketing director at St. Joseph’s.
Kathy starts the meeting, “Thank you, everyone, for coming together to discuss the findings of the healthcare needs assessment. As you know, we have had a puzzling and tragic experience over the past six months with suicides and attempted suicides on campus.”
Judith speaks up. “Yes, this has been heartbreaking and confusing, but our data has yielded some enlightening discoveries. Kevin has compiled some interesting facts over the past year. Kevin, can you please share that with us?”
“Absolutely,” Kevin begins. “I went back through our records to review the most requested information, and the top three were depression, suicide, and STDs. As you know, we distribute any requests either in person, via email, or through requests on our website. None of these came from in-person requests. All were requested in an anonymous fashion.” The group takes a moment to process what this might mean for their examination.
“Thanks for that information, Kevin. It would seem likely that students would request such information in an anonymous fashion,” starts Sherry. “From our admission records at the in-patient psych department, 90% of the suicide attempts over the past six months were self-reporting from the LGBT student population at the university.”
“Interesting that you say that, Sherry, as those who were successful in their suicide attempts over this past six-month period were reported by family members to also be from the LGBT community,” Kathy adds. “Only one family declined to identify the victim as such.”
“That seems strange, as our student health center has seen very low numbers in LGBT students requesting assistance with STDs or depression issues. No rise whatsoever. I would think this would be an obvious trend we would have seen,” Judith wonders.
At that, Tom chimes in. “Just stepping back for a moment, let’s look at some of the pieces of information from this assessment. We have increased suicide attempts and suicides from the LGBT student community reported by both the health department and our health system’s mental health division with identifying help of family members of the victims. There has been an increase in the requests in the student advocacy center for information on depression, suicide, and STD’s, but none were made in person. Furthermore, those requesting information online in an anonymous fashion did identify in the survey requests as being from the LGBT community on campus. Yet, the university health center has seen little activity from the LGBT community. Seems like there is a pattern here and needs that are obviously not being met”.
“I did speak to Michelle from the LGBT union on campus, and she did mention that there has been a spike in meeting attendance, especially with the incoming freshman class as well as new transfers. Something like a 40% increase. That’s unprecedented!” Kevin adds.
“I think it is pretty clear. We have some urgent issues to address right away and some serious outreach efforts that need to be made sooner rather than later. I would consider this a healthcare crisis of sorts,” Kathy concludes. “Let’s take a look at the current outreach strategies we have in place. What has everyone been seeing?”
“Well, as we mentioned, we do have fliers up around campus and banner ads on our website. Our university radio station also broadcasts 30-second promotional spots throughout the day and evening hours encouraging any student with depression or suicidal issues to call the student hotline,” says Kevin.
“I’ve heard those spots. They sound great, and I think they send a clear invitation to make that call if needed,” Judy adds.
Kevin continues, “We also have a booth up at all student events, even at our home sporting events. We pair up with student services so it is not just the LGBT union present but any of the services, like the 24- hour help line and the health center. We have lots of brochures as well as pens and notepads with our numbers on them.”
“Thanks for the recap, Kevin. You mentioned you were limited on budgets. Where does that impact you most in your marketing strategies?”
“Well, our printing costs and purchase of premium items, like the pens and notepads, are our biggest expense. The radio spots are free since it is the university’s station. However, we would like to expand our message outside of campus to reach the families and just have a better overall chance of reaching the LGBT students and community.”
Tom says, “Kevin, what we might want to consider is partnering with other businesses in the area to help with the marketing message. I can include your link in our online pay-per-click advertising efforts at the hospital. Also, let me check to see if we can use our print center to help offset some of the costs for your printing.”
“That would be awesome, Tom. Some of the ways we want to get the message out are just so expensive, but partnering with others in the community sounds like a great way to spread the word and become more efficient.”
In this case study analysis, respond to the following questions:
1. Assess the target population. What is unique about the LGBT community that could cause a spike in suicide attempts? How does the rise in requests on campus for information on depression, suicide, and even STDs play into this scenario? Can the target population be divided into segments? If so, which one is most at risk and why?
2. Examine the current marketing strategies. How do you understand the low impact of the university health center when at the same time these requests seem to be very influential factors regarding suicide issues? Why are the current outreach methods failing?
3. Suggest strategies to increase outreach to the LGBT community. Outline these strategies in the form of a marketing plan, and include an explanation to support your suggestion. Why are your strategies better suited to the situation than those you examined above? Consider the various healthcare channels that could be implemented. How could the LGBT student union be better utilized in serving this population through marketing efforts? Keep in mind that marketing is not limited to media but educational offerings as well. Finally, be sure to include a mention of how cost would play a role in your marketing suggestions.
4. Consider the ethical implications of your suggestions. What methods could be employed while still respecting those who obviously are seeking anonymity but who need dramatic help? Is it ethical to pinpoint the marketing only toward this population and, in a manner of speaking, further segment them from other populations?