Suicide Prevention for Athletic Staff: Evaluation of a Brief Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training for Athletics

Matthew C. Mishkind – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Teresa Mescher – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Crystal Natvig – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Alexandra Yannaconek – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Zachary Giano – Colorado School of Public Health
Becky Alberti-Powell – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Suicide is an emerging concern for athletic communities at all levels, and more specifically for college-level student-athletes. This paper describes and evaluates VitalCog: Suicide Prevention for Athletic Staff, a 2-hour gatekeeper suicide prevention training program designed for broad athletic communities, with targeted utilization expected among collegiate programs. Participants were 244 attendees of a pilot program between May 26, 2022, and December 2, 2022. A mixed methods pre- and post-training intervention design with no control group was used and results suggest that participating in the program increased self-perceived knowledge about suicide prevention, confidence identifying risk factors, and comfort talking to others about suicide posttraining. Participants had favorable ratings about the training overall, had high self-perceived ratings of behavioral intention, and indicated that they gained new skills, felt the training provided them with practical applications, and felt able to apply what they learned during the workshop. Preliminary 3-month follow-up evaluations are supportive for the maintenance of initial self-perceived knowledge, confidence, and comfort outcomes. The training workshop appears to not only increase participant knowledge but to also foster skills that may lead to participants being more likely to connect with others struggling with suicidal thoughts.