Through a program originally proposed by APA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded 22 higher-education institutions $1.5 million in grants per year for the next three years to help improve the nation's youth suicide-prevention efforts.
The federal grants, which range from $25,050 to $75,000 per year for up to three years for suicide education, screening and intervention programs on college campuses, were authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act's Campus Suicide Prevention Grants Program-which APA's Education Public Policy Office and APA members originally suggested in 2002 be included in the Campus Care and Counseling Act.
"It was inspiring to watch an idea generated by members of the APA make its way through the legislative process and become law-thanks to the support and understanding of a bipartisan group of senators and representatives," says Cynthia Belar, PhD, executive director of APA's Education Directorate. "These grants will go a long way toward addressing the growing mental and behavioral health needs of college students today-needs that, if left unmet, may result in academic failure, dropping out with a burden of debt, and in the worst cases, death."
College and university recipients will use their grants to:
Develop campus educational seminars on such topics as suicide prevention, depression and substance abuse.
Create campus networks of student services that can identify, assess and treat mental and behavioral health problems.
Prepare informational materials for students and their families that address warning signs of suicide, depression and substance abuse and other materials that identify appropriate responses for professionals working with distressed students.
For example, in response to university data that show 11.4 percent of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students reported seriously considering suicide in the past year, the university plans to use its $75,000 grant to develop a campus- wide campaign aimed at reducing stigma and other such barriers to students seeking help. The university also seeks to increase students' knowledge of available mental health assistance and to train campus staff and student leaders to identify risk factors for suicide and depression.
Meanwhile, grant recipient George Washington University will use some of its $75,000 to develop an after-hours hotline staffed by master's-level counselors who will link needy students with the university's counseling center.
And Syracuse University's Counseling Center plans to use its $75,000 grant to, among other efforts, begin a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program to teach students how to tolerate and manage stress more effectively.
-M. Dittmann Tracey