Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


College students--Mental health--Iowa--Cedar Falls; Secondary traumatic stress--Iowa--Cedar Falls;


Evidence indicates directors of college counseling centers and those in student affairs roles have observed a steep increase in the number of severe mental health crises on their campuses, thereby also impacting student leaders and those in helping roles as counseling centers try to adapt to the influx of need (Kitzrow, 2003; CAS, 1999). Additionally, there is evidence to support students are more likely to turn to peers first when experiencing mental health crises than they are to seek out professional help (Drum, Brownson, Burton-Denmark, Smith, & Roberts, 2009; Gallagher, 2013). The goal of this study is to examine whether or not students experiencing traumatic mental health events cause secondary trauma to their peers who are supporting them during and after the traumatic episode. This study utilizes mixed quantitative and qualitative measures to gather data, including Bride, Robinson, Yegidis, and Figley’s (2004) Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS) and in-person individual interviews with the researcher. Ultimately, there were several factors that contributed to the experiences of secondary trauma including engaging in dependent relationships, having feelings or responsibility and guilt, triggering of past mental health concerns, desensitization to mental health crises, and a lack of boundaries.

Keywords from author: secondary trauma, college students, suicidality, peer support, mental health

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations, and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

David Schmid, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 97 pages)



File Format