“It is clear that suicide is a serious problem among college students,” says Shelley O'Connell, executive director of UNI Health and Recreation Services. “In the spring of 2017, UNI administered the American College Health Association National Collegiate Health Assessment to a random sample of 5,000 students. Of the 1,274 students who completed the survey, 8.9 percent reported that they had seriously considered suicide during the previous 12 months.”
To bring awareness to the mental health needs of students, UNI received a more than $300,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to support the “Building Capacity and Culture of Care at UNI” project. The university will receive $102,000 each year for three years.
“The Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant will not only provide awareness of the help available to students at the University of Northern Iowa, but it will also help us to foster partnerships within the campus and local community,” said O'Connell.
“Our campus deeply cares about each student, and we are committed to making a difference by learning how to recognize the signs of suicide, how to have conversations about mental health and suicide concerns, and by becoming aware of the resources available and seeking help when needed. The grant funding allows UNI to implement a plan to engage the whole university community in our suicide prevention efforts, which include students, faculty, staff and parents,” said O'Connell.
The goals of the “Building Capacity and Culture of Care at UNI” project are to:
- Build collaborations by developing a networking infrastructure with campus and community partners to deliver the message of shared responsibility in suicide prevention
- Increase the training available to students, faculty and staff, and develop and increase educational seminars and availability of information materials for the campus community
- Foster an environment of help-seeking by raising awareness to reduce the negative attitudes and perceptions toward help-seeking for mental health and substance abuse disorders while encouraging and educating on help-seeking behavior
- Increase awareness on help resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention lifeline, to both students and their families. UNI's capacity building effort will create a structured and fluid institutional suicide prevention and crisis response plan with effective suicide and postvention protocols, provide training to student services staff, faculty, students and general staff, and create outreach efforts, including culturally and linguistically targeted resources to reach a minimum 7,000 students, families, staff and faculty