An SF State professor studying violence and suicide prevention hopes a new health and wellness course will lead to fewer tragedies among students who sign up and cause a ripple effect among their peers.
The Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative, a collaboration between the College of Ethnic Studies and the Wise Wishes organization, started one of two workshop-style courses on Friday to promote healthy lifestyles and steer students away from self-destructive behaviors.
The courses emphasize building self-esteem, healthy eating habits, emotional intelligence and awareness and fitness.
Professor Dr. Cherie Safapou said the courses are intended to make students recognize their own goodness.
“Believing in courage is being yourself in a world that tells you to be someone else,” Safapou said. “Mental health is a taboo when it comes to everyone, but when you feel good about yourself, nothing and nobody can reach you.”
It’s all part of a larger study that seeks to measure the effectiveness of the Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative. The study tests the hypothesis that the courses will have a positive impact, and that students will serve as examples to help steer their peers away from violence and other self-destructive behaviors.
“We want to emphasize love — that love always travels between others,” said Safapou, who is the primary investigator of the research project.
According to 2016 statistics by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Americans aged 15 to 34 have seen a steady increase in suicides since the year 2000.
Now in its second year at SF State, the Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative will evaluate the workshops’ effectiveness at reducing these numbers. The goal is to leave students with a decreased feeling of isolation and build a sense of community and belonging by modeling healthy behaviors.
“We want people to make better health choices, so we teach them the benefits of exercise, such as lifting, better eating habits and dieting,” said Daniel Jahangard, the program’s health and fitness consultant and a gym-owner from Santa Cruz.
Jahangard teaches students how to apply long-term dieting and fitness goals as effective ways of increasing confidence and happiness.
In one exercise, Jahangard shows the class six to eight gummy bears and brussel sprouts, both of which are worth around 87 calories, and asks them which they would choose.
“Obviously you’re going to pick the brussel sprouts, but at the same time you’re not going to avoid everything, so we teach them it’s ok to have that coke once a month,” Daniel said. “The point is, you can choose to eat healthy the rest of your life, but will you be happy?”
While the study is currently being conducted at SF State, the initiative’s collaborators hope to expand their cause to more high schools and other colleges in the region with enough donations and investments.