Preventing Suicide on College Campuses
Part 3: Stress Reduction
In addition to gatekeeper training, the SU Counseling Center offers an 8-week class-Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction-to teach students how to manage difficult situations before severe distress occurs.
Specifically, the class teaches students how to respond to situations with choice rather than knee-jerk reactions. Participants engage in gentle yoga and body scan meditations to focus on and work through what's going on in their minds.
While the program isn't designed to eliminate stress, it does help students learn how to reflect. "If you don't know you're in distress, you can't seek help," Dr. Dayton explained. "We believe that students need help in learning how to be self-aware."
By the end of the grant term, about 180 students will have taken the class. Preliminary evaluations suggest that participants have seen a reduction in perceived stress.
A key component of both programs is awareness programming.
Grantees use posters, brochures, and public service announcements to promote knowledge and understanding of mental health problems on campus, reduce stigma, and increase help-seeking behaviors.
On the West Coast, UC Irvine's award-winning Don't Erase Your Future campaign (donteraseyourfuture.org) is an important resource. Online, the university posts SAMHSA's National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-TALK), describes suicide warning signs, and uses stories about famous historical figures to show visitors why they should look toward the future. (See SAMHSA News online, September/October 2005.)
The Lifeline has saved lives at UC Irvine. Dr. Reibling recalled at least three documented instances in which students in crisis called the hotline and were directed to local resources for treatment.
About 18 million students will be enrolled in colleges and universities across the Nation in 2008. In light of the big-picture needs of students, campus suicide prevention cannot be the sole responsibility of school counseling centers, Dr. Dayton said. Faculty and university administration staff at institutions across the Nation must collaborate with counseling center staff to help college students address mental health issues.
The hope for the campus program is that, over time, grantees will be able to bring about a cultural shift on campus that will actually decrease the need for mental health services. In the meantime, however, as awareness of suicide increases, so does the demand for SU Counseling Center services. No doubt multiple factors are responsible for this growth, and grantees report more students are asking for help. So many more, in fact, that the Counseling Center may hire additional staff next year.
"Connecting with people, helping people feel understood, improving communication skills, enhancing relationships—those are important protective factors that help reduce suicidality," Dr. Dayton said. "Universities need to be educating students on how to get help when they need it."
Ms. Power noted that students in distress must be encouraged to seek assistance. "Each and every one of us has a role to play in suicide prevention," she said. "SAMHSA is here to help."
For more information about SAMHSA's National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, visit http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/
For details on SAMHSA's Campus Suicide Prevention program and other mental health programs, visit www.samhsa.gov.
« See Part 1: Preventing Suicide on College Campuses
« See Part 2: Preventing Suicide on College Campuses - Gatekeeper Training
See Also—Preventing Suicide on College Campuses
Campus Suicide Prevention Grants »
Grantees List »
Garrett Lee Smith's Story »
Suicide Warning Signs »
Administrator's Message: Making a Difference, Saving a Life »
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