Psy.D. students send ‘Messages of Hope’

Psychology doctoral students at Radford University are working on a positive community intervention program called “Messages of Hope.”

The “Messages of Hope” program was adopted for use during the Out of Darkness walk held on Radford University’s campus April 23, which was held to increase awareness and fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The motivation for the messages goes back even further than that.

“The idea sprang from a conference we attended in April,” said Jeremiah Burkhart, a Psy.D. student at Radford. “We heard news about a community in Canada that was struggling with suicide attempts and we wanted to send them positive messages.”

The rural community in northern Ontario is comprised of a proud indigenous population and the Radford students were aware of potential cultural differences that could be in their messages.

Burkhart and the other Psy.D. students reached out to multiple organizations in Canada in order to counteract any potential cultural differences.


Some of the messages of hope sent by some of the Psy.D. students at Radford University.

“Ed Conners, a First Nation doctoral level psychologist, of Mohawk ancestry, was willing to be our cultural broker, giving us insight into the background and approach that would be most helpful in our messages,” Burkhart said. “During my time with Conners, we spoke at length about community healing in comparison to individual intervention. He has spent his career attempting to increase resources and support for First Nation peoples that have often been neglected.”

These messages of hope were crafted during a writing event that took place prior to finals week of spring 2016. Radford University wasn’t the only provider of hope, though.

“We also reached out to Dalton Intermediate School, part of the Radford City school system, and the school counselor there, Suzanne Saunders, who helped us obtain messages written by hundreds of middle school students,” Burkhart said.

The package of hope, crafted with the care of Radford students and members of the community, was delivered to the Canadian community this past summer.

If you or someone you know would like messages of hope, contact Jeremiah Burkhart, located in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Building, room 4700.

Messages of hope are meant to provide encouragement and support, but should never take the place of professional mental health services.

If you or anyone else you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7; or contact the Radford University Student Counseling Center at 540-831-5226.    

Nov 4, 2016
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749