Creating a climate that encourages students, faculty, and staff to connect depressed and anxiety-ridden students to the proper resources is the goal behind a three-year suicide-prevention program at Buffalo State.
Buffalo State Cares: A Call for Bystanders to Prevent Suicides on Campus began during the 2011-2012 academic year as a joint project between the Counseling Center and the Center for Development of Human Services. They just received a $102,000 grant, the second installation of a three-year, $306,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide accounts for more than 12 percent of all deaths among 15- to 24-year olds, and it is the second leading cause of death for college students. Today a greater number of students country-wide enter college with major depression and anxiety than in the past. Some self-disclose they have been hospitalized or in treatment prior to coming to college, said Joan McCool, director of the Buffalo State Counseling Center and the Buffalo State Cares project.
This is why the need for a multipronged prevention strategy is crucial. Already, the Counseling Center has trained all resident hall assistants, University Police officers, and dining and custodial staffs on the question, persuade, refer (QPR) model designed to get students help before and during a crisis.
“It’s based on the concept behind CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)—simple steps to follow to save a life,” said McCool, who has worked for the Counseling Center for 31 years. She would like to provide QPR training to even more campus constituents.
“We want to teach students not to be a bystander,” McCool said. If another student is in trouble, they need to know they can call the Counseling Center or the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”
Along with covering the costs of QPR training and publicity, the grant pays for a part-time outreach worker. This additional staff member allows the Counseling Center to collaborate more with community partners, including area hospitals, the Veterans Administration, and law enforcement, on suicide prevention strategies and spread awareness that help is available 24 hours a day.
The Counseling Center is also designing brochures to disseminate on campus targeting subgroups more at risk for stress in their lives, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, Native Americans, veterans, and students who are parents.
Another important new component this year—all incoming freshmen and transfer students will participate in a 30-minute online suicide-prevention training prior to coming to campus. Similar to the web-based prevention courses, AlcoholEdu for College and Sexual AssaultEdu, this training gives an overview of college stress and depression, signs of suicidalideation, and how students can get treatment, McCool said. There will be a component for parents as well and a program for faculty and administrators.
“Many people who die on college campuses from suicide are not in treatment,” McCool said. “And that is why we want all students to be aware of treatment services on campus—because treating the underlying conditions is very effective in preventing suicide.”
Important Phone Numbers:
Buffalo State Counseling Center: (716) 878-4436
Crisis Services: (716) 834-3131
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-(800) 273-TALK (8255)
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