Appalachian State University’s Division of Student Development has received a three-year, $192,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to implement a comprehensive approach to preventing suicide.
The grant will be administered by Dr. Denise Lovin, a psychologist in the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center.
The grant will enable the university to:
• More effectively coordinate existing suicide prevention activities through the addition of a suicide prevention coordinator in the Counseling and Psychological Services Center
• Purchase an interactive online suicide prevention training program
• Expand the number of faculty, staff and students who receive suicide prevention training
• Create an extensive network of individuals who are trained in all key areas where student interaction occurs – including residential (both on and off-campus), academic, healthcare, co-curricular and interpersonal/ family – to recognize signs, symptoms and communications of suicide and respond by connecting students to needed resources
“We welcome this opportunity to strengthen the support of students in this critical area and look forward to involving the campus community in this important initiative during the coming year and beyond,” Lovin said.
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2008 young adults age 18 to 25 were more likely than adults age 26 to 49 to have had serious thoughts of suicide (6.7 percent vs. 3.9 percent). The statistics underscore why prevention of substance abuse and mental illness — including suicide prevention — is the first of eight strategic initiatives that will guide SAMHSA’s work through 2014, according to the agency’s website.
“Suicide is a preventable tragedy for college students, their families and our communities,” said SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “By working on suicide prevention on campuses and elsewhere, we can save thousands of lives.”
A 2010 Higher Education Research Institute study of more than 200,000 freshmen entering four-year colleges found that their emotional health had declined to the lowest level since the annual survey began 25 years ago.
During the 2012-13 academic year, 15 percent of students seeking counseling services at the university identified “suicidal thoughts” as a presenting concern and 36.6 percent of clients indicated that they had considered suicide at least once in their lifetimes.
The university’s suicide prevention efforts will be integrated with and support the university’s existing campus safety infrastructure: APPCares, which connects students to on- and off-campus health and safety resources, and its “It’s Up to Me” campaign, which encourages students, faculty and staff to speak up when they witness a situation that threatens physical harm to themselves or a student.