Stakeholders welcome H3 campus suicide prevention initiative
Stakeholders welcome H3 campus suicide prevention initiativePublished 01/30/2014
University of Washington students, administrators, faculty, clinicians and staff met Jan. 16 to launch Husky Help and Hope (H3), the Forefront-facilitated initiative to improve mental health and suicide prevention across the Seattle campus. The turnout and energy at the first stakeholders meeting was exciting, says H3 Project Director Lauren Davis, who joined the Forefront staff on Jan. 2.
The campus leaders listened intently to the results of a baseline campus assessment of current UW suicide prevention and mental health resources, then jumped in quickly with clarifications and ideas for collaboration and progress. The assessment uses the nationally recognized JedCampus tool for interviewing key personnel involved with suicide prevention to identify and consolidate information on the existing services and concerns.
Key findings began with the obvious, but still daunting, fact that the Seattle campus is large, diffuse and diverse.
- It has 43,762 students, (85% of whom live off campus) and more than 20,000 faculty and staff.
- Several programs deal with personal safety and mental health, either on an emergency or ongoing basis, but there is no overarching suicide pre/postvention plan or protocol.
- Approximately 200 students a year are monitored by the broad-based case management Consultation and Assessment Team (CAT) consisting of representatives from seven key campus services. The Suicide Intervention program provides short-term intensive and comprehensive case management for 30-50 students a year.
- Between the Counseling Center (free short-term counseling) and Hall Health Center (insurance-covered services), the Seattle campus has 21 FTE counselors, a ratio of 1 counselor per 2071 students.
When the stakeholders reconvene in February, Davis plans to report what’s been learned from the next steps in the assessment, which include:
- The number and nature of UW suicide deaths and attempts, which are not currently monitored in a central database
- Existing suicide prevention training curricula, e.g., for resident advisors, freshmen orientation, and anti-violence bystander training;
- Suicide prevention efforts for student populations served by specialized services and affinity groups, e.g. Disability Services, Q Center, Veterans Center, and ethnic/cultural groups.
Armed with comprehensive information about campus services and challenges, the stakeholders will prioritize opportunities for improvement over the next three years, with funding from the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention grant awarded last fall by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Initial interviews and the stakeholder responses showed strong interest in:
- Systematic gatekeeper training for resident and academic advisers, faculty, and others;
- Incentives for UW-affiliated experts to develop curricula for suicide prevention to train professional students;
- Clearer policies and procedures for helping students affected by loss or suicidal thoughts.
Ultimately, Davis says, the goal is to create a lasting, self-sustaining campus culture of mental health promotion, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention.
That’s great news to stakeholder Juliana Borges, co-president of Huskies for Suicide Prevention and Awareness (HSPA). She and three other HSPA members came away from the first meeting impressed by the turnout and breadth of support for the cause so close to their own hearts and personal experiences.
“It made the whole effort feel a lot bigger,” she said. She believes having students at the stakeholder table will help H3 make campus policies and programs more effective and accessible. She also believes HSPA students can help inform fellow-students about the resources already available through the Counseling Center, Hall Health and other services.
Borges recalls meeting with a Forefront intern last fall and being surprised “in a good way” about all that will be happening on campus. “Suicide is a leading cause of death among college students, and it’s really important to start forming policies around it,” she says.
“I’m grateful that it’s getting the attention it get deserves.”