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Rural Health Information Hub

I Got You: Healthy Life Choices for Teens (IGU)

  • Need: To improve awareness of behavioral and mental health issues by students in rural, east central Mississippi.
  • Intervention: An intensive community mental health outreach program was implemented for students in rural Mississippi.
  • Results: As of 2018 and on a yearly basis, 6,000 7th and 8th grade students receive mental health education on a variety of topics which improves their ability to recognize mental health issues, high risk behaviors, and manage their own choices.


Effective (About evidence-level criteria)


I Got You program logo The "I Got You: Healthy Life Choices for Teens" (IGU) program was created in 2012 by Central Mississippi Residential Center to provide mental health education for students in rural east central Mississippi. Its design was also geared to decreasing behavior-related office discipline referrals in schools and provide general education about mental health and well-being. The expectations at program's completion were that participants would know how to recognize high risk behavior, understand why it is important to seek help, and become familiar with available resources.

Local schools, mental health organizations, domestic violence shelters, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office and the Mississippi Department of Education have continued to engage with the program. In recent years, the Mississippi State Troopers Association has promoted and assisted in the program's presentations in various state locations.

IGU has evolved into an intensive day-long intervention modeled after the evidenced-based SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program.

In the initial years of the program, students were scheduled to attend sessions at Central Mississippi Residential Center (CMRC) in Newton and several other locations, such as Mississippi's community colleges. Yet the program struggled to find the additional physical space for further presentation opportunities. With time, the program's reputation grew and today's programs are now actually hosted by many community colleges across the state, as well as Mississippi's higher education institutions, such as University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Because of continued success, program has now extended its efforts to become a statewide initiative.

Program success has also led to an increase in requests beyond staffing ability to accommodate. However, there is capacity to reach beyond the original 8 Mississippi counties. By 2017, the program was in 15 counties and in 2023, over 20 counties with over 6,500 students across the state receiving the education on a yearly basis. This growth includes student attendance as 8th graders, versus previous years' programs offering a repeat attendance for 10th graders. This growth includes student attendance as 8th graders, versus previous years' programs offering a repeat attendance for 10th graders. Though some schools do request the information for their 7th graders, 8th graders are the preferred audience. Due to program growth and limited staff, repeat presentations for 10th graders are no longer possible. Students travel to presentation sites during school hours.

The following video was recorded during the initial roll-out of the program. Here, a small group that includes program leaders and participating students share stories of how IGU is impacting youth in The Magnolia State. Most recently, the program has grown to include 300 to 400 students in one single presentation setting.

This program received initial support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.

Services offered

This program is now reaching approximately 6,000 students each year with a defined curriculum.

To prepare for the IGU workshops, program leaders:

  • Identify participating schools in order to coordinate program presentation dates and logistics
  • Enlist topic speakers
  • Collect and analyze data using an independent contractor

Curriculum includes a basic overview of understanding mental health issues. It also covers the following: alcohol and drug prevention, suicide prevention, domestic violence and unhealthy relationships, self-injurious behaviors, in addition to cyberbullying, sexting, and impersonations.


Students complete evaluations/surveys post-participation. Overall, results show:

  • Improved self-concept
  • Improved awareness of healthy relationships
  • Stronger anti-bullying orientations
  • Stronger anti-drug dispositions
  • Increased willingness to confide in an adult
  • Decreased stigmatization of mental illness
  • Greater mental health awareness

Participating schools report academic performance improvements, improved student coping schools and decreased behavior-related office referrals.

Previous surveys revealed:

  • 95% of students believed the program would make a difference in their lives
  • 79% of students reported they "learned a lot" from the program

For more information on this program's results:

Bartkowski, J. Xiaothe, X., Avery, J., Ferguson, D., Johnson, F. Good Things in Small Packages? Evaluating an Economy of Scale Approach to Behavioral Health Promotion in Rural America. 2018. J — Multidisciplinary Scientific Journal. 1(1), 42-56.


Initial challenges this program faced included:

  • Initial lack of space to accommodate students
  • Securing the evaluation component
  • Speaker availability

Current barriers:

  • Funding in order to provide a more extensive reach along with repeat visits with 10th grade students


In order to create a similar program, it is important to:

  • Consider partnering with local community colleges as program hosts in order to accommodate more students and provide students the opportunity to learn about continuing their education
  • Develop collaborative relationships that contribute to community building
  • Work with schools to develop policy changes regarding how teachers communicate and respond to student mental health needs

On-site presentations regarding replication may be available by contacting program contact. The I Got You brochure is still available as an example for other programs, but will be updated in the near future.

Contact Information

Frankie J. Johnson, Mississippi Department of Mental Health Public Relations Specialist
Curriculum Development Coordinator Division of Prevention Services
Office: 601-683-4310

Abuse and violence
Children and youth
Mental health
Suicide and suicide prevention
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention

States served

Date added
September 3, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
February 26, 2024

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2024. I Got You: Healthy Life Choices for Teens (IGU) [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 17 April 2024]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.