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La Salle News

September 18, 2018

La Salle University Receives Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant

Three-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Systems Administration grant is worth over $300,000


PHILADELPHIA (September 18, 2018)—La Salle University is the recipient of a three-year Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Systems Administration, worth over $300,000. The primary purpose of the grant is to reduce the potential for deaths of students due to suicide or alcohol/drug overdose by increasing outreach to the University’s most vulnerable students; increasing by-stander interventions by faculty, staff, and friends; and increasing help-seeking behaviors by students in need.

“La Salle University is truly at the forefront of cultivating a more trauma-informed campus that better supports the mental and emotional health needs of students,” said Serita Reels, MPH, MCHES, grant manager of the Garrett Lee Smith initiative at La Salle. “Today, many of our students are not only dealing with the day-to-day stressors of college life, but are also coping with preexisting mental health issues, adverse childhood experiences, and proximal stress. These issues adversely influence student academic performance and retention. I am proud that La Salle has taken a holistic approach to reducing suicide rates and promoting mental wellness so that all students can actualize their full potential.”

La Salle has employed a number of innovative strategies to engage, educate, and empower every member of the community around suicide prevention and mental health. A crisis response folder was created to provide faculty and staff with immediately accessible information on how to recognize signs of distress and respond when a student’s health (physical, mental, and emotional) and safety is at-risk. In addition, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to be trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), an emergency mental health intervention to help them identify students who are experiencing suicidal ideations and psychological distress and direct them to the proper care.

To provide services for the influx of students seeking help after hours, La Salle has implemented ProtoCall, a telephonic behavioral health counseling service that offers immediate support, crisis intervention, and stabilization. To help students feel more comfortable expressing their concern for a friend that might be struggling emotionally, an interactive role-playing simulation called Kognito At-Risk for Students will be offered to all students. With Kognito, students can practice conversations with a virtual student so they will know what to say in real life. Students learn how to determine when a friend needs help, how to talk with a friend who they are worried about, and where they can turn to for help. In efforts to bolster campus safety, the University’s Garrett Lee Smith campus advisory team is working on a suicide postvention plan that will provide clear guidelines on how to respond appropriately after a suicide and limit the risk of further suicides through contagion.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, claiming the lives of 1,100 students each year, yet, only 40 percent of students with mental illness seek help. For the past decade, colleges and universities across the United States have reported significant increases in the frequency and severity of students in psychological distress, and at any given time, 32 percent of college students are dealing with a mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, or panic disorders.