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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
May/June 2009, Volume 17, Number 3 

Gatekeeper Training: Syracuse Shares Hands-on Experience

Syracuse University’s (SU’s) experience in “gatekeeper” training for its own campus suicide prevention program is now the cornerstone of a training program for campuses across the country.

With funding from SAMHSA in 2005, the first year of the Campus Suicide Prevention grant program (see SAMHSA News online, November/December 2007), SU created a train-the-trainer program called Campus Connect. They are sharing this knowledge with dozens of college campuses around the Nation, many of whom are SAMHSA Campus Suicide Prevention grantees.

photo of two male college students walking down stairs

“We realized that investing the time and energy into developing a training that takes into account the specific needs of individual campuses and then actually training gatekeepers is the most efficient way to meet the needs of students who are in distress,” said Susan D. Pasco, LCSW-R, Associate Director of the SU Counseling Center.

Ms. Pasco is one of the counselors at SU who conducts trainings with other universities. She personally trained two mental health staffers from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (see cover story).

One of the biggest issues they address is the role of the gatekeeper, or individuals who come into contact with students and can help them get the help they might require.

“Really, we’re training people to have a basic understanding about suicide and some basic information about referrals, as well as giving advice on how to manage their own reactions when they’re dealing with someone in trouble,” Ms. Pasco said. “We’re not training gatekeepers to do suicide risk assessment.”

Ms. Pasco and her colleagues lead 6-hour workshops to train campus mental health professionals who can then conduct gatekeeper trainings with different campus personnel, including resident life staff, academic counselors, health service staff, and campus safety staff.

An important item to note, Ms. Pasco emphasized, is that their program focuses specifically on the needs of college students. “Many different suicide prevention materials are out there, and not much of them specifically talk about campus culture. It’s very different from other settings, such as a secondary school,” she said.

Specialized Support

“As adults, college students have a lot more autonomy,” Ms. Pasco said. “It’s really important to engage students in followup treatment as opposed to making them feel like its being forced on them.”

In addition, required training is not always feasible on college campuses. “Mental health professionals and campus leaders have to think about how to reach out and get faculty to understand more about their potential role as gatekeepers,” Ms. Pasco said. “You have to be a bit creative.”

Since each campus has different needs, Campus Connect allows for flexibility. “We don’t expect when people do this training that they have to use it like we do,” Ms. Pasco said. “We help each campus figure out what modifications to make so they can customize it.”

Before the SU team meets with trainees face to face, they make preliminary phone calls to get a sense of the campus atmosphere. “We also send them a questionnaire and a readiness checklist, and then we usually meet with administrative staff, such as a dean or the director of the college counseling center, to talk about implementation strategies and evaluation,” Ms. Pasco said.

Train-the-Trainer Workshops

“We walk people through the entire training and give them tips on how to do the different exercises and what material to cover on their own campuses,” Ms. Pasco said. “We also give advice about how to implement their own gatekeeper training program,” she explained.

Some of this guidance addresses how participants will handle calls from gatekeepers about students in distress—for instance, will they provide after-hours coverage? SU trainers also give some pointers about how to respond to a distressed student to ensure that that student is connected to the appropriate resources.




President’s Budget

President’s Budget

FY2010 Budget sustains critical programs.


  Treatment Improvement  
   Protocols  
Addressing Suicidal Thoughts & Behaviors

Addressing Suicidal Thoughts & Behaviors

From CSAT, TIP 50 offers guidance to substance abuse counselors on how to help clients who may be in crisis.


  Medication-Assisted Treatment  
Buprenorphine: Guide for Nurses

Buprenorphine: Guide for Nurses

Specific guidance for nurses and nurse care managers.

Methadone Safety

Methadone Safety

Safe use of methadone, a medication for opioid addiction, is the focus of a new campaign.


  Data on Depression  
MDE and Youth

MDE and Youth

In 2007, 2 million adolescents had a major depressive episode.

MDE and Adults

More than 16 million adults struggle with depression.


  Focus on Children  
Mental Health Awareness Day

Mental Health Awareness Day

Eight young people take center stage in a celebration of the arts as a way to cope with mental health problems. Photo Gallery.

Data on Children, Parents, Drugs

More than 8.3 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs during the past year.


  Women’s Behavioral Health  
Mental Health Publications

Mental Health Publications

“Action Steps” for professionals and “What It Means To You” for consumers are available to order.

Pregnancy & Substance Abuse

Pregnancy & Substance Abuse

How much are alcohol and drugs used during pregnancy and after childbirth?


  Recovery Month  
20th Anniversary Includes TV Spots, PSAs

20th Anniversary Includes TV Spots, PSAs

With a few months to go, the Recovery Month Web site offers flyers, banners, and more.


  Also in this Issue  
PRISM Awards

PRISM Awards

Celebrating excellence in Hollywood. Photo Gallery.

ADDERALL® & College Students

ADDERALL® & College Students

Full-time college students are twice as likely to use Adderall® nonmedically.

Real Warriors Campaign

Real Warriors Campaign

Helping service members break through stigma to ask for help.



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