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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Grant meant to address suicides

Suicidal thoughts among college students can be caused by a breakup or issues in a relationship, a problem at home or stressful academic endeavors.

Statistics have shown that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students in the United States.

Campus Health Service and other organizations involved in the suicide prevention effort received a $306,000 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant will be used over three years to combat the problem.

David Salafsky, the director at Health Promotion and Preventive Services at Campus Health, said the goal of the grant is to reduce the incidents of suicide, suicide attempts and their related risk factors through both prevention and intervention. The grant will target three specific groups — Native Americans, military veterans and their families and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer and questioning.

Jon Linton, a pre-business junior, said suicide was a major problem at his previous college, the University of Washington. But for the most part, he said, he hasn’t seen depression very much at the UA.

“I feel depressed sometimes, but never thinking about quitting or committing suicide … but there’s a lot of pressure here,” said Catherine Cook, a music education junior.

Cook said she knows people who are depressed and have had suicidal thoughts. Sometimes people make mistakes and do not know how to handle it, she said.

In the 2011 Health and Wellness survey conducted by Campus Health, 6 percent of respondents said they had serious thoughts about suicide and suicide attempts over the past school year, with some students having them more than once.

“While that’s scary and sad, I think that people need to know that this is a very difficult time in life for students,” said Glenn Matchett-Morris, a staff psychologist and the assistant director at Counseling and Psychological Services.

Often times, people struggling with depression have feelings of loss and do not know what other options there are because they feel like things won’t get better, Salafsky said.

“It doesn’t necessarily scare me, but it makes me feel sad for them and I want to help them,” Cook said.

Many campus organizations are also on board with this comprehensive approach, Salafsky said. The grant represents a strong partnership with the Dean of Students Office, Residence Life, Fraternity and Sorority Programs, LGBTQ Affairs and the Disability Resource Center. Campus Health is also working with the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

It can be hard for students to adjust to being far away from home and without a support system. Financial problems or feelings of social isolation are also contributing factors for suicidal thoughts, Matchett-Morris said.

“Everyone experiences some depression, isolation or loneliness,” he added.

When those experiences become bigger, more chronic and affect a person’s lifestyle, that’s usually an indication that something is going on, he said. The counseling provided at CAPS “absolutely” helps people get better with time, Matchett-Morris said, and CAPS often advises individuals to eat better, exercise more or improve social relationships, depending on their situation.

The grant will also help Campus Health identify students who may be at risk. They will screen for depression and educate the campus community about mental health issues related to suicide and depression, Salafsky said. Campus Health will also use the grant for media campaigns, staff support and trainings for “gatekeepers,” who are trained to identify underlying symptoms, risk factors and possible suicidal behaviors.

Campus Health hopes to train more than 500 people each year in the Question, Persuade, Refer program, Salafsky said.

“It (QPR) really teaches people how to ask the difficult question of whether someone is considering suicide, how to kind of get them to stay safe and then connect them to resources,” he said.

Though some students may come to CAPS for help, there are many students who have suicidal thoughts don’t come in for counseling, Salafsky said.

“We’re really trying to train people to be ready, willing and able to help somebody out who might be at risk,” he said.

More college students depend on mental health resources, and staffing has increased because of that, according to Salafsky.

Cook and Linton both said they would go with a friend to CAPS if they needed them to.

“Students, on the whole, are really willing to step up and help a friend who might be in need,” Salafsky said. “We really want to try to get as many people throughout the campus community trained in this program so we can prevent needless deaths as a result of suicide.”

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