UC Irvine is one of 22 schools that recently received a grant for the advancement of youth suicide prevention. UCI was the only school in Southern California to receive a Campus Suicide Prevention Grant. The $75,000 grant will be used to fund various programs on campus that promote greater awareness of youth suicide among UCI faculty and students and to provide help to students contemplating suicide.
‘[Last year], approximately 900,000 youth had made plans to commit suicide during their worst or most recent episode of major depression,’ said Charles Curie, administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
Close to 700,000 youth attempted suicide during such episodes of depression. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, passed by Congress in early September of last year, targets improving mental health institutions and awareness across college campuses.
According to Crystal Saunders, the director of grant reviews at the SAMHSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which provided the grant, the schools which received grants were selected based on various ‘rating criteria,’ drawn from applications from different schools across the nation.
UCI, along with the other schools, will be responsible for setting up programs promoting awareness of youth suicide and prevention of suicide with the grant money.
Ellen Reibling, director of Health Education at UCI, is enthusiastic about the programs that will be implemented on campus this fall.
‘[The main objectives of UCI’s new suicide prevention programs] will basically involve creating
awareness about suicide prevention through training,’ Reibling said.
There are also plans for a marketing campaign, which would help advertise awareness and safety around the UCI campus with the use of posters placed around campus informing the population about the various programs available to them.
‘Our idea is to create a sort of neighborhood awareness program for students and faculty on UCI’s campus and to strengthen UCI as a community and safe learning environment,’ Reibling said.
The project is known as ‘Project Courage’ and will focus on training students in awareness regarding youth suicide and on strengthening prevention on campus. The program will set up ‘courage teams’ within each school, consisting of faculty members and students. ‘Ultimately, we want to create a campus climate where students can still compete with one another but will also know where to go for help,’ Reibling said.
Thomas Parham, assistant vice chancellor of counseling and health services at UCI, is also optimistic about Project Courage.
‘The suicide rate in our country among college students is of particular concern and it’s been of concern for mental health professions for awhile,’ Parham said.
According to Parham, health professionals are paying more attention to mental health issues.
‘And so we think that there are good and bad things about that,’ Parham said. ‘If it raises the awareness of the institution about mental health issues on campus, then I think it’s a very good thing.’
Parham hopes that in addition to raising awareness of youth suicide, the program will also encourage people to take a look at different mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and other illnesses that are precursors to a suicidal person.
‘What we hope to do is to invite the community to be a little more sensitive, a little more caring, a little
more nosy if you will, to check on your friends, to check on your colleagues, to ask legitimate questions
and expect legitimate answers,’ Parham said. ‘We want them to know that there is help, there is support and there is a community that cares.’
Briana Dunkin, a first-year biological sciences major, is interested in the prospect of this program.
‘I think the program is a good idea,’ Dunkin said. ‘The success will depend on the staffing. Obviously, the staff needs to be conductive to listening to students.’