“In any group, people often feel like they’re can’t help because they’re not ‘qualified,’” says Gordon. “Research has shown people are more likely to intervene if they have subject competence.” Upstanders engages students in discussion around various topics related to mental health, including substance abuse and interpersonal violence, in order to elevate levels of comfort within those tough subject matters.
“Our hope is that, when the moment comes, folks feel more empowered to do something — we want to create a norm that it’s okay and important, rather than weird or uncool, to check in on people,” says Gordon.
The training tunes students into their gut feeling about baseline behaviours, and provides skills to act on that instinct, rather than assume or hope someone else will do something.
Gordon has seen the positive effects of Upstanders in this growing movement on campus: “Instead of thinking, ‘Who am I to say or do something?’ students are prepared and inspired to say, ‘I can help, I can make a difference here.’”
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