Fordham’s Counseling and Psychological Services has received a federal Campus Suicide Prevention grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The three-year grant facilitates University-wide activities and programs designed to address and reduce students’ suicide risk by enhancing overall mental health and wellness on campus.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-age students,” said Jeffrey Ng, Psy.D., director of Fordham’s counseling and psychological services. “This period of life presents a unique set of stressors, including increased academic demands, financial pressures, identity struggles, increased autonomy, and so on.
“In addition, various mental health problems might be more likely to emerge during this age period, such as certain psychoses, bipolar disorder, and depression.”
The grant, Ng said, will allow Fordham to strengthen its existing infrastructure by engaging the entire campus community in mental health and suicide prevention efforts. In particular, increased awareness will help reach students who have historically underused mental health services or who the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention have identified as high-risk, including veteran, LGBT, international, and particular ethnic and racial minority students.
“The grant funding will allow us to augment what we’re already doing to support our students,” Ng said. “We’re working to communicate to our entire community of faculty, staff, administrators, coaches and others that suicide prevention and mental health promotion is everyone’s responsibility—we all have a role to play in the wellness of our student body.”
The grant has four overall objectives:
- Enhance students’ coping and resiliency skills by delivering stress reduction seminars and disseminating the Stressbusters mobile application.
- Increase identification, support, and referral of students in distress or at an increased risk of suicide by providing “gatekeeper” trainings and developing suicide prevention peer education programs;
- Increase help-seeking behaviors among students by enhancing partnerships with on- and off-campus constituencies and developing peer-driven public awareness campaigns to reduce stigma, shame, and misinformation about mental health;
- Improve student access to mental health services by increasing visibility of on- and off-campus mental health services and resources.
Engaging the community—especially students—will be among the most important elements of Fordham’s suicide prevention efforts, Ng said. Students can help with normalizing and de-stigmatizing the use of mental health services, which some students may hesitate to use due to fear or shame.
“The most effective way to decrease stigma is through peer-driven advocacy and promotion,” he said. “Messages and information about mental health and wellness are most powerful and effective when they come from our peers.”