Nov 30, 2017
Humboldt State is improving access to mental health support with a new effort to prevent suicide and educate the campus community.
A $300,000, three-year grant from the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) provides the resources to hire a suicide prevention specialist and expand awareness and prevention on a number of fronts.
The program, called The HSU Campus Connect Support Network is led by Student Health & Wellbeing Services including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and is part of an overall campus effort aimed at improving funding sustainability for physical and mental health services and reducing the risk factors for suicide among HSU students.
The program will especially work to help high-risk populations identified by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, including students who identify as Latina, American Indian, Alaska Native, and LGBT as well as military service members and veterans.
Part of the HSU Campus Connect Support Network plan includes educating faculty, staff, and student leaders to recognize the signs and risk factors of suicide, as well as respond to these signs effectively.
Suicide Prevention Specialist Chey King says these initial interactions can be especially important. “For faculty and staff, it can be scary if a student comes to them and tells them about having feelings of self-harm,” King says, adding that it also probably shows the student trusts them. “They can have a big impact on a student who’s feeling that way.”
The grant will also allow Student Health and Wellbeing Services to collect more data on suicide risk on campus and efficacy assessment. In a survey commissioned by HSU and conducted by Healthy Minds Network, 4 percent of 2016-17 student respondents said they had attempted suicide in the previous year. The national rate of suicide attempts by college students is 1 percent, according to Healthy Minds Network reports.
“Even with the best efforts, we know statistically in a community our size some individuals may still heartbreakingly choose to end their own life,” says Student Health & Wellbeing Services Director Brian Mistler, who is also the SAMHSA grant’s principle investigator and project director. “We must act urgently and tirelessly to improve our campus-wide safety net and empower all of us with the tools to identify and help students in need, systematically increase key protective factors like students’ sense of connectedness and hope, and—doubly critical in our under-served community—improve access to more health and counseling staff.”
Mistler and King are joined by Health Educator Ravin Craig and CAPS Director and Associate Director of Student Health and Wellbeing Services Dr. Jen Sanford.
King, a recent HSU graduate who was named Student of the Year in spring 2017, has an emotional connection with the project—she’s lost friends to suicide, dealt with suicidal thoughts of her own, and utilized emergency response procedures for suicide as a Community Advocate in the HSU residence halls. She also has a dual degree in Child Development and Psychology and has trained on mental health issues. She’s looking forward to direct student contact and other prevention work.
“Mental health work is my passion,” King says. “I’m really thankful that this is happening on campus. It’s needed and our students deserve it.”
Students considering suicide can get help by visiting the resources at this link.