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CU Denver Counseling Center receives SAMHSA grant

Grant to improve suicide prevention on campus

Counseling Center aiming to improve mental health awareness.
Photo: Madison Daley · The Sentry

In November 2018, the counseling center at CU Denver received a grant for $306,000 over the course of the next three years, which will enable the counseling center to improve suicide prevention and mental health awareness on campus.

The grant is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) under the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant. Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon began funding the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act after the death of his son by suicide in 2004. The act recognizes suicide as the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24 years old.

According to SAMHSA and a survey conducted by AUCCCD Public Directors, “Among college students who seek counseling, anxiety was the most predominant and increasing concern (50.6 percent); followed by depression (41.2 percent); relationship concerns (34.4 percent); suicidal ideation (20.5 percent); self-injury (24.2 percent); and alcohol abuse (9.5 percent).” The grant’s main goals for recipients are enhancing services for college students, preventing mental health and substance abuse problems, promoting help-seeking behavior from students on campuses, and allowing for students that are struggling to be identified more quickly and treated to successfully complete their studies.

On the Auraria Campus, the goals of the grant are being reached through various plans that the counseling center is devising to implement for students and the community. According to Brittany Bouffard, Outreach/Prevention Coordinator at the Counseling Center and Principal Investigator for the grant, “We already have some changes rolled out for the center, but we’re still in the planning stages for the suicide prevention trainings we plan to offer around campus.”

Some of the counseling center’s goals with the grant include being more diligent in suicide prevention across the campus community, meaning that there will be an expansion in suicide prevention trainings on campus offered to professors, faculty, staff, student organizations, and students themselves.

“Suicide prevention is something that we, on college campuses, need to help prevent. We need to train faculty on campus to help students navigate and have a supportive conversation when they’re struggling and help to make students aware of resources on campus that can help,” Bouffard stated. In addition to these trainings, the grant will also fund staff salaries to those involved in the effort as well as programming and screenings offered to students and community members.

The funded programming for students includes things like “find your anchor boxes,” blue boxes placed around campus that will be centered around depressive and suicidal thoughts. Other programs include guest speakers and increased screening opportunities for disorders, like eating disorders, and mental health, as well as events like “Keep Talking: End the Stigma” on April 18 at 4 p.m.

While many positive changes are to come, students that are currently seeking help can reach out to the counseling center. The center offers walk-in appointments Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and Fridays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. as well as an after-hours number for emergency situations. The center also recommends the Colorado Crisis Services to call, text, chat online, and schedule further help.

“The word suicide can be intimidating or sound scary. All of these efforts are meant to support our campus community in so many ways around checking in with each other, speaking with each other about how we’re doing, and empowering someone who’s really struggling,” Bouffard said.

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