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Member Research and Reports

South Florida: Professor Helps Develop Campus-wide Initiative Focused on Men and Mental Health Literacy

Chances are you’ve seen those billboards talking about an insurance plan that’s right for you. Or maybe you’ve passed the posters at the mall trying to convince you to buy the latest smartphone or pair of shoes.

Visual advertising is an effective marketing technique. But what if it was used, instead, to persuade us to make investments in our own mental health?

That’s what Dr. Rita DeBate, a professor of health education at the University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH), is hoping for come this fall when she kicks off a mental health literacy initiative targeted to male students.

It’s part of the ongoing “Mental Well-being for Student Success” (aka MWell4Success), campaign that’s happening across the entire USF campus.

In response to the promising results seen regarding TAO, an online mental health literacy resource that saw a surge in use among male students at the beginning of the campaign, DeBate and her team are planning on putting posters in the USF campus recreation center.

“Once we sent out the first marketing message for TAO, we had about 80 men go and use it on the second day,” said DeBate. “Based on the positive response to that, we are launching this men’s health initiative with the campus recreation center.”

But there’s a difference.

Instead of placing these posters in public areas, they will be located in more private settings―namely the men’s restroom stalls and urinals.

“This will be another targeted approach focused around men’s health issues,” said DeBate. “There will be messaging [on the posters] to increase help-seeking behaviors, first on mental health issues and then moving into other health behaviors.”

The key to the initiative lies in giving men a private way to learn about and address any mental health issues they may be encountering.

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