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Wellness and resilience for college and beyond: protocol for a quasi-experimental pilot study investigating a dialectical behaviour therapy skill-infused college course
  1. Carla D. Chugani1,
  2. Barbara Fuhrman1,
  3. Kaleab Z. Abebe2,
  4. Janine Talis1,
  5. Elizabeth Miller1,
  6. Robert W.S. Coulter3
  1. 1School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
  2. 2School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  3. 3School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carla D. Chugani; carla.chugani{at}


Introduction College students’ mental health problems and suicidal behaviour are serious, persistent and prevalent public health issues. With the need for mental health support greatly exceeding the availability of on-campus treatment, a recent trend on college campuses is to offer courses designed to teach students strategies for developing mental health or resilience. While these courses are exceptionally popular among students, a paucity of research investigates the health outcomes associated with participation. The purpose of this study is to investigate the acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a college course grounded in skills from dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) titled, ‘Wellness and Resilience for College and Beyond’.

Methods and analysis During the spring and fall 2020 semesters, the course will be offered on five campuses in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The course consists of 15 weekly 2.5-hour lessons, weekly homework assignments and a final examination with content drawn from DBT, acceptance and commitment therapy and positive psychology. Undergraduate students aged 18–24 will self-select into the course and control subjects receiving ‘university as usual’ will be recruited to serve as a comparison group. Students who receive the course will complete measures of course acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility. All study participants will complete measures of adaptive coping skills use, emotion dysregulation and suicidality.

Ethics and dissemination All of the study procedures were approved as an exempt protocol for evaluation of educational curricula by the University of Pittsburgh Human Research Protections Office (HRPO); the study was approved as a research study by the institutional review board (IRB) of the fifth study site. The University of Pittsburgh HRPO served as the IRB of record for all except one study site, which required standard IRB review. Data from this study will be disseminated via conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications and via our online stakeholder learning collaborative.

Trial registration number NCT04338256.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • mental health
  • public health

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  • Contributors CC is the principal investigator of this work and led the conception, planning and design of the study; she currently leads the conduct of the study and will lead the reporting of the results. RC, EM and KZA contributed to the conception, planning and design of the study. JT contributed to the planning and design of the study and oversees data acquisition and quality. BF contributed to the planning and design of the study and will lead data analysis; CC, RC, EM and KZA will also consult on data analysis. CC, RC and BF drafted this manuscript and EM, KZA and JT provided manuscript reviews; all authors approved the final version prior to submission.

  • Funding This study was supported by a donation from Citrone 33 Foundation and RWSC’s effort was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers K01AA027564 and TL1TR001858). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Citrone 33 Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.