In order to develop a comprehensive suicide awareness and prevention program, a clear message needs to be sent from those in top positions: suicide prevention is a priority. Leaders on campus must then involve a wide variety of individuals and departments. One way to help ensure success is by involving campus stakeholders and creating partnerships.
Build a Campus Community Coalition
Mental health issues on campus encompass a variety of concerns, including: legal rights, medical leave policies, 24-hour emergency services, online assessments, and more. In an already busy work day, how are higher education professionals best able to address mental health concerns without duplicating efforts or recreating the wheel? One way to address this concern is through the formation of a Mental Health Awareness Coalition.
A campus Mental Health Awareness Coalition brings together a diverse group of individuals who share a common vision. A shared goal of the coalition may be to help educate students about the importance of mental health and how to best seek support. In addition, coalition members can brainstorm together about how to best support educational and support efforts on campus. By combining forces and understanding the issue from multiple viewpoints, a coalition serves as an important and vital resource.
The Unique Role of Students
Part of a comprehensive approach to identifying key coalition representatives involves the inclusion of student leadership. Student peer leadership can be a key to raising awareness of mental health issues on campus and it is important to have student representatives as coalition members. If your campus has an active peer education group, this is an excellent place to recruit individuals.
Other Important Groups to Include as Coalition Members:
Many different campus departments interact with students living with mental health challenges. Through the development of a Mental Health Awareness Coalition, diverse individuals can join together to help educate students and reduce stigma. Keep the following groups in mind when identifying individuals that you would like to serve as Mental Health Awareness Coalition members.
- Campus Counseling Center Staff
- Residence Life
- Student Activities
- Student Health Services
- Recreation Center
- Disability Services
- Multicultural Affairs
- Judicial Affairs
- University Police
- Student Government
- Greek Life
- Student Newspaper
- Interested Community Members
- Local Law Enforcement
Roles and Goals of Coalition
As detailed above, the identification of key stakeholders can aide in the development of a Mental Health Awareness Coalition. In addition, the creation of partnerships plays an important role in helping to examine campus services. By bringing together a variety of individuals with unique perspectives, stakeholders can explore:
- What services are currently available on campus?
- Which departments provide each available service?
- How are students made aware of these available services?
- Does current marketing of available services reach the college student population?
- What services/programs would help to increase mental health awareness and support?
- How can partnerships be developed to help support and improve services?
Educating Key Constituents
One way to promote mental health awareness on campus is by appropriately educating key players. This means that members of your coalition and campus community should be provided an overview of current campus standards and procedures, recognizing when a student needs help, and knowing how to make a referral.
Campus Standards and Procedures
First, coalition members and other key stakeholders should review current mental health standards and procedures. This process will help to promote an environment of collaboration. When reviewing these areas, be sure to address the following questions:
- What are the campus standards and procedures surrounding student mental health?
- What gaps exist in current policies, emergency response procedures, and available services?
- How can gaps be addressed in a realistic and appropriate timeframe? What support is needed to make this possible?
- How are standards and policies advertised? Are students provided this information before they arrive on campus? Are standards and policies discussed in the student handbook?
- Key constituents such as coalition members (see previously suggested list of members), identified stakeholders, campus administration, and peer health educators should be educated about current mental health standards and procedures and any changes that are made. When educating key constituents about campus standards and procedures, remember:
- Knowledge is power! Individuals are better able to promote mental health awareness when they are personally informed about available services and campus policy.
- Keep in mind that not all people have previous knowledge about mental health. Keep language understandable and provide general educational materials.
- Include information on standards and procedures in your Resident Assistant training program.
- Brainstorm about more effective ways to educate students. Consider posting information on your campus website.
Get Trained and Promote Gatekeeper Training on Campus
The QPR Institute is a multidisciplinary training organization whose primary goal is to provide suicide prevention educational services and materials to professionals and the general public. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer—3 simple steps that anyone can learn to help prevent suicide. The QPR Institute offers various trainings to help increase standards of care and reduce suicide rates.
- QPR Gatekeeper Training: a gatekeeper is someone in a position to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. Gatekeepers include parents, peers, coaches, and campus professionals, etc.
- QPR trained gatekeepers learn to:
- Recognize the warning signs of suicide
- Learn how to offer help
- Discover how to access resources and help and save a life
- QPR For Colleges and Universities – Colleges and Universities are communities. Therefore, a community-based approach is necessary for the successful introduction and ongoing support of suicide prevention programming on college campuses.
- The QPR Institute believes that campus leaders and other key gatekeepers can be fully equipped with the knowledge and training necessary to help reduce suicidal behaviors on campus.
To learn more about QPR training and resources please visit www.qprinstitute.com