Meeting students’ growing mental health needs with expanded APA Campus Suicide Prevention Program

APA’s advocacy efforts to reauthorize and improve the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act will help prevent suicides at schools.

APA’s Education Government Relations Office staff worked closely with APA members in the college and university counseling center community to develop and advance APA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative authorized as part of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA). Since its passage in 2004, the act has supported youth suicide prevention grants in 49 states, 48 tribes or tribal organizations and 138 higher education institutions.

APA staff identified bipartisan supporters of the legislation in both houses of Congress. In January, Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced the legislation in the Senate. Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., introduced their own version in the House in July. 

Both pieces of legislation incorporate surveys and research data developed by APA members and directors of college and university counseling centers, allowing APA’s program greater flexibility to meet the diverse, documented and growing mental health needs of students. Additionally, the bills reauthorize the GLSMA Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies Program for States and Tribes, the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Services and Outreach on Campus Program as well as the Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center.

During APA’s 2013 Education Leadership Conference in September, nearly 100 APA members made 150 visits to their congressional representatives to raise awareness of the GLSMA reauthorization. These visits secured additional bipartisan support for both bills, with 15 representatives and four senators joining as cosponsors.