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The PSU Student Prevention & Wellness program strives to enhance each student's understanding of the health risks that present themselves as part of the college experience. This is done in the belief that giving students up-to-date information and practical options results in more healthy and satisfying college experiences. The office also serves as resource of prevention and wellness information and education for faculty and administration.

GORILLAS IN YOUR MIDST is a nationally affiliated peer health education group who complete a comprehensive two credit hour course designed to help them educate peers to make healthy choices. The peer educators are the backbone of prevention and wellness efforts. They offer educational, peer theatre and interactive programs on such topics as: Alcohol and Other Drugs, Date Rape, Sexual Assault, STD's, HIV/AIDS, Contraception, Suicide, Smoking Cessation, Eating Disorders, Diversity, Stress Management and Depression. Phone 620-235-4062 or e-mail for more information.

Student Prevention and Wellness utilizes the Substance Abuse Focus Group, which is made up of representatives from University Housing, Campus Activities, Greek Life and Gorillas In Your Midst to provide year round prevention, wellness, and healthy choice information and programming - including Alcohol Awareness Week and Safe Spring Break Week. The group is also responsible for the administration of campus alcohol surveys and the "most gorillas ... make healthy choices" social norms media campaign designed to decrease problem drinking on campus.

Student Prevention and Wellness, Gorillas In Your Midst Peer Health Education and the Substance Abuse Focus Group work closely with Campus Activities, GAMMA, the Sexual Assault Safety Awareness Committee, SafeRide, the World AIDS Day Committee, and the AIDS Resource Network of Southeast Kansas to plan and support programming such as National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, the Great American Smoke-out, World AIDS Day, Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Karaoke Night, Safe Spring Break, Safe Holiday Break and Sexual Responsibility Week.

If a professor cannot make it to a scheduled class for whatever reason, he or she can contact Student Prevention & Wellness and ask to have J.T. Knoll facilitate the class and educate students about substance abuse and stress management instead of canceling. Please call J.T. Knoll at 235-4062 or e-mail him at if you need a substitute teacher or guest speaker.

What is the purpose of social norming?

Social norm theory states that individuals are highly influenced by what they think their peers are doing or thinking. The theory also states that students typically overestimate problem behavior, such as high-risk alcohol consumption, and underestimate healthy behavior. The theory predicts these misperceptions increase problem behaviors and decrease healthy behaviors because students are acting in accordance to what they think is "normal". Social norm theory predicts that correcting misperceptions of the norm is likely to result in decreased problem behavior and an increase in healthy behavior.

Surveys on our campus have shown that our students tend to overestimate how much and how often other students drink. Prevention and Wellness is trying to share the accurate picture of student alcohol consumption at Pitt State, with the expectation that doing so, combined with good alcohol education and environmental management, will result in a larger number of students drinking moderately or abstaining, and a smaller number of students making high risk choices. Posters, t-shirts, hi-liters, key chains, bookmarks, footballs, cups etc. with social norming messages depicting the facts about alcohol use on the PSU campus are distributed free to students throughout the school year. This strategy, when combined with the promotion of harm reduction alternatives such as the PSU SafeRide program, has been successful at a number of colleges and universities across the country.

For a more detailed discussion of social norms theory and the research associated with it, visit the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Issues web site at:, The Report on Social Norms at, or the National Social Norms Resource Center at .

Where do the numbers for the campaign come from?

In the spring of 2003, the PSU Substance Abuse Focus Group administered alcohol surveys to over 700 students. A random sample of classes was selected and the surveys were administered in the classrooms with faculty permission. A new survey will be conducted this fall.

Won't the message make students who abstain feel pressured to start drinking?

Research on this issue has consistently shown that this does not happen. Rather those who abstain from alcohol report feeling less pressure to drink more.

I don't believe the message. How can it be true, with all the parties and problems we hear about?

It's not surprising that many individuals are skeptical about this message. Virtually everyone has misperceptions about students alcohol use. The problems associated with alcohol are what are reported in the news. And when students come back from parties they talk about the fights, the vomit, the sex, the drunkenness - not about all the people who are drinking responsibly. Since we notice what is exciting, or different, or tragic, that's what we focus on and that's what we talk about. When individuals in conversation glamorize and generalize high risk drinking (i.e. "everyone was so wasted at that party last night") then high risk drinking seems to be the norm. However, when people start to pay attention to what is really happening at parties, they begin to notice that it usually is only a small number of individuals who are drinking the largest amount of alcohol and causing the most problems.

Social norming is not the silver bullet. It should be used as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing alcohol abuse.

What can faculty and staff do?

All of us need to work together to create an environment that supports and encourages students to make good decisions about alcohol. Keeping students accountable, not making jokes about alcohol or condoning use is imperative. In addition it is important to help students who may be at risk for alcohol problems to know what resources are available.

For educational and resource information on student prevention and wellness topics please call 235-4062 or e-mail

J.T. Knoll, Coordinator
Student Prevention & Wellness
Advisor, Gorillas In Your Midst - Peer Health Education

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Upcoming Events

Karaoke Nights, 8pm- 10pm, Overman Student Center U-Club

April 21st

May 5th

Alcohol Awareness Week:

October 11 - 17

HIV-AIDS Awareness Week:

November 16 - 21

Great Gorilla Smokeout:

November 19

Free Anonymous HIV Tests – Health Center:

April 21st

May 19th

Stressed Out?

Sressed Gorilla

Feeling Stressed? Test Anxiety? Log off in one of the five massage chairs in the Relaxation Room adjacent to the U-Club in Overman Student Center or try one of these useful Relaxation/Visualization Exercises!