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The back-to-school season always brings Gordie's story to the forefront of our minds--the final August of his life was spent preparing for his upcoming college experience at the University of Colorado. His death, just three weeks into the college experience to which he had been so looking forward, was entirely preventable. Intervention opportunities existed on so many levels - within the fraternal organization, within the group of peers that surrounded Gordie during the events that led to his death, and in the community as a whole. Bystander intervention (responding actively when someone is in distress) is a critical skill that everyone can practice to prevent hazing and alcohol overdose deaths like Gordie's. Check out the section below on the 5 steps to effective bystander intervention that are the core of the Step UP! Bystander Intervention Program. Step UP! was created at the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Gordie Center, the University of California-Riverside, and the National Collegiate Athletics Association to help students be empowered to make life-saving interventions.

Step UP! 5 Steps to Intervention

Step UP! is a national bystander intervention training model that teaches students how to appropriately intervene in problem situations. The training provides a framework for becoming an active bystander by understanding the barriers to intervention and the 5 Steps to Intervention. A practice component helps students learn strategies and techniques to intervene both directly and indirectly in a variety of situations. The five steps that must occur to move from a passive to an active (or responsive) bystander are:
  1. Notice the Event: If you are not aware that a person is passed out on the couch at a party or that a friend is frequently skipping class due to hangovers, you would have no reason to be concerned. Be aware of your surroundings. Noticing an event does not have to occur face-to-face--it can include seeing something on Instagram or Snapchat, or in an email.
  2. Interpret the Event as a Problem: Once you notice a potential problem, you must decide if the situation merits intervention. You may ask friends for their opinions on the seriousness of the situation, or investigate further even if others appear unconcerned (e.g., checking a student's breathing). Bystander intervention training encourages participants to be mindful of group-think and be prepared to follow their instincts even if others appear unconcerned.
  3. Assume Personal Responsibility: Most students feel a responsibility to their peers. Publicly stating your intention to take action can encourage others to support an intervention. Enlist others to step up with you by assigning specific tasks (e.g., "I'll stay with our friend while you call 911").
  4. Know How to Help: You need to know the symptoms of an alcohol overdose and how to respond, as well as how to effectively intervene with a student who has a substance abuse problem. Practice sessions and role-plays can be effective methods for building these skills.
  5. Implement the Help: You may accurately perceive a situation as a problem, feel responsibility to intervene and possess the skills to help, and still not intervene because the perceived (or real) consequences of action are too great. Do not be afraid to step up! Your action can give strength and permission to others. Student organizations that discuss behavioral expectations around intervention can reduce the fear of retaliation for potential bystanders.
The Gordie Center annual print publication will be rolling off the presses and into your email inbox and mailboxes later this month!  Please email us with your mailing address if you wish to receive a print copy!

Until next month,

Susie Bruce, Director
Jill Maurer, National Development & Program Coordinator

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