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SU Counseling Center receives grant to support suicide prevention efforts
SU Counseling Center receives grant to support suicide prevention effortsSeptember 27, 2005Jaime Winne Alvarez firstname.lastname@example.org
The Syracuse University Counseling Center has received a $75,000 Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to enhance services for students with mental and behavioral health problems. SU, one of 22 higher education institutions to receive this grant, received the maximum award. The grant will be used to implement and assess programs that address the increasing stress and mental health problems facing college youth today.
“We are thrilled that our counseling center was given this opportunity,” says SU Counseling Center director and grant project director, Rebecca Dayton. “Not only can we continue our solid clinical work with students, but we now have the resources to broaden our scope and begin implementing and researching innovative programs that will both positively influence our campus culture as well as contribute to the field of college mental health.”
According to Susan Pasco, Counseling Center assistant director and assistant project director, SU will use the funds to evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs with suicidal students. SU will also develop innovative mental health wellness programming aimed at the general student population.
The grant project consists of two primary aspects. One is enhanced training for staff and faculty in responding to students in a suicidal crisis. “Responding to someone who is suicidal can be a very intense and anxiety-provoking process,” says Pasco. The Counseling Center’s suicide intervention workshops, developed by staff therapist and project assistant Cory Wallack, emphasize listening and communication skills. By enhancing these skills, responders can betterunderstand, connect with and relate to students in crisis. In turn, students may feel validated and supported, and will be more likely to accept referrals to the Counseling Center. “In this training we want to go beyond simply communicating myths and facts about suicide and teach the responders how to connect to students in emotional distress,” says Wallack.
A second aspect of the grant project is to offer the general student body a new approach to dealing with intense emotions and stress. Instead of focusing on the common goal of stress reduction, the aim is to teach students to tolerate their stress and not necessarily eradicate it. “Stress and painful emotions are a normal part of college life. You can’t always get rid of them, but you can learn to more effectively cope with them,” says Dayton.
The Counseling Center intends to introduce the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to the SU community. This practice and philosophy, developed and extensively studied by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, emphasizes the concept of mindfulness as a method for students to develop a new way of tolerating stress and managing painful emotional experiences.
“Mindfulness can teach students how to take control of their lives; how to live consciously rather than just reacting in ways that lead to negativity and conflict,” says Pasco, who will be involved with studying the effectiveness of the MBSR program on the SU campus.
The Campus Suicide Prevention Grants program is authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, and gives grants of up to $75,000 per year for up to three years, with equivalent matches from grant recipients. Continuation of the award is subject to availability of funds in addition to the progress achieved by the grantee.
This year, SAMHSA awarded 37 grants with a first-year total of $9.7 million to support national suicide prevention efforts through a national suicide prevention resource center, suicide prevention efforts on college campuses, and state and tribal youth suicide prevention and early intervention programs across the country. The three grant programs will be administered by SAMHSA’s Centerfor Mental Health Services.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services delivery system.