The Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative

VSPI brochure coverThe Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative, a collaboration between San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies and Wise Wishes, is conducting field/participatory research to study the efficacy of a novel, workshop-based approach to instilling and promoting self-management skills among youth, particularly with regard to self-esteem, emotional intelligence, fitness, and healthy habits.


Youth Face Alarming Rates of Violence, Suicide, and Destructive Habits

Our nation’s youth face alarming rates of violence, suicide, and destructive habits and conditions such as dropping out of school and obesity. Many of the problems are attributed to stress, anxiety, poor nutrition, and disadvantageous socioeconomic factors that adolescents, teenagers, and college students experience. Students are often under pressure from their families, worry about finances, and struggle with adjustment and attachment issues.

 No student is an islandAccording to the Center for Disease Control (2010 Census), teenagers diagnosed with depression are five times more likely than adults to attempt suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among 20-24 year old college students. Twenty-five percent of students who visit university health centers for routine care report being depressed and 10 percent of students report having suicidal thoughts.

These harmful symptoms are becoming more common as preventative public health measures are increasingly underfunded and private treatment programs are increasingly cost prohibitive for many families, especially in marginalized communities. Today, public schools have fewer resources for counseling services to address these issues.

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Achieving Effective Harm Reduction through Integrative Preventive Group Interventions

While there are various strategies for tackling the problems that youth face as well as a number of studies on the effectiveness of various forms of group therapy (cognitive, behavioral, etc.), little focus has been given to integrative, educational preventive approaches. The Violence and Suicide Prevention Initiative will bridge the gap in this research by evaluating if the skill-based, social network and workshop programs implemented by Wise Wishes can serve as an effective intervention in reducing factors associated with violence, suicide and other destructive behavioral patterns. The study will examine the connection between an individual’s emotional intelligence, coping skills and other aspects of character with the effects of environment in improving their well-being, self-esteem and ability to negotiate volatile situations with non-aggressive alternatives.

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The goals of the Wise Wishes workshops are:

  1. decreasing feelings of isolation
  2. building community by nurturing a sense of belonging
  3. teaching new life skills and promoting resilience by modeling healthy behaviors

The Initiative will study the efficacy of the Wise Wishes workshops among different age groups including college students and high school students with parent involvement. The workshops for college students are conducted at San Francisco State University. The workshops for high school students will be conducted at select schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Following the localized studies, Wise Wishes intends to scale up the successes of the comprehensive intervention program to high schools and colleges throughout the region. They envision a multi-ethnic and interdisciplinary center that advances the study and practice of personal and societal transformation to improve wellbeing, create pathways to success, and reduce internalized oppression and structural violence.


Cherie R. Safapou

has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She is the founder of Wise Wishes Retreat, and is co-Principal Investigator on the Violence and Suicide Prevention
Initiative at the College of Ethnic Study’s César Chávez Institute at San Francisco State.


Dr. Safapou has over 18 years experience as a psychological assistant, personal consultant, and a
motivational development specialist. She has worked with the very rich and the very poor, the young and the old, and those incarcerated both in Juvenile
Hall and in prisons of the mind. Dr. Safapou’s observations and experiences have been distilled into the approach employed at Wise Wishes Retreat. Her own life is a rich source of knowledge and compassion — she has experienced abandonment and abuse, as well as the challenges and joys of being a single mother, a student, and a professional.

Dr. Safapou has thoughtfully collected the individual offerings of our presenters and weaved them together into a cohesive, multipronged whole that offers  more than the sum of its parts.

She believes the best medicine for all human beings is to stay Wild at Heart so we all can be happy together!


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