Strategic communication, formative research, mental health, social support


Guided by the reasoned action approach, this two-fold research first used an online open-ended elicitation survey to identify beliefs held by undergraduate students (N = 397) pertaining to offering social support to depressed friends or peers. Then, these findings were included in a closed-ended survey study to assess the influence of intention on the social support behavior among students (N = 509). Additionally, the influence of the antecedents of intention (i.e., attitude, perceived norms, perceived behavioral control) on behavioral intention was explored. Next, the study examined whether beliefs predicted the antecedents of intention. Last, the influence of background factors (depression status, depression actual and perceived knowledge) on beliefs was investigated.

Study one findings revealed salient behavioral beliefs focused on the depressed person's feelings and well-being. Normative beliefs involved participants' friends and family approving and the depressed person disapproving of the social support behavior. Control beliefs indicated being close to the depressed person and knowing they wanted to be helped would facilitate engaging in the social support behavior. Study two findings revealed instrumental attitude, perceived injunctive norms, and capacity accounted for 51.4% of the variance in intention with capacity being the strongest predictor. Further, instrumental attitude, perceived injunctive norms, capacity, descriptive normative beliefs, facilitators, and depression knowledge predicted 55% of intention to offer social support. Most beliefs influenced the antecedents of intention. Last, depression status and knowledge influenced beliefs. Findings of the present research may help inform future campaign messages promoting undergraduate students' offering of social support to depressed friends or peers.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Morris-Neuberger, Lindsay


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences


Nicholson School of Communication and Media

Degree Program

Strategic Communication





Release Date

June 2024

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Campus Location

UCF Downtown