Campus Suicide Prevention Program

Authorized first as part of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and housed at SAMHSA, the Campus Suicide Prevention program is a small but effective competitive grant program that makes funds available to college counseling centers to enhance services for students with mental and behavioral health problems, such as depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts, which can lead to school failure.

Since the creation of the Campus Suicide Prevention program at SAMHSA, ED GRO has been active educating Congress and their staff about the importance of the program as well as raising awareness about important provisions from the Campus Care and Counseling Act (108th Congress) that were left out of the final version of Campus Suicide Prevention, making it difficult for grantees to meet the significant and documented needs of the students on their campuses.

As part of our reauthorization efforts, APA is seeking an expansion of the "uses of funds" under the Campus Suicide Prevention program to include "strengthening and expanding mental and behavioral health training opportunities in internship and residency programs, such as psychology doctoral and post-doctoral training." This change would address a serious concern that APA has raised since 2004; the sharp increase in demand for counseling services as reported by college and university counseling centers. Sixty percent of senior student affairs officers surveyed reported that a record number of students are using campus counseling services for longer periods of time than ever before.

APA member Jeffery Pollard, Ph.D. ABPP, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at George Mason University came to Capitol Hill and briefed a group of Senate HELP Committee staff about issues facing college counseling centers, which included: increased student awareness about signs of depression/suicide without an increase in trained professionals able to see these patients seeking assistance; a new presence of returning Iraqi war veterans, whose mental and behavioral needs may or may not have been met, pursuing their university degrees; and new fears and concerns associated with the tragic events of Virginia Tech last school year.

ED GRO are now meeting with key Senate staff to push for these critical changes to the law in the Senate bill. While many of our meetings have been positive and we are pleased to report we have top staff pushing hard for this change, we are faced with significant opposition from important Members of Congress and it is far from certain we will be able to expand the provision on campus mental and health services or to have included the use of interns.