Suicide Prevention Programs

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Along with numerous college campuses, Plymouth State University (PSU) falls short when it comes to suicide prevention programs. The campus not only lacks awareness, but also appropriate training and resources. Regarding the resources that are available, students are either not aware of them, are ashamed to utilize them, or do not have the appropriate support systems at their disposal. Some individuals are not aware of the warning signs and risk factors regarding suicidality, or they overlook them, minimizing the potential harm.

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According to the National Vital Statistics Report (NVSR), suicide was the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-25 in 2105. Suicide accounted for approximately 17.6% of deaths for this age group in 2015 (Heron, 2017). Approximately 80% of undergraduate students that commit suicide are not even known to campus professionals. Many of these students (85%) suffer from depression, and do not receive treatment (84%) (Pasco et al., 2012). Universities have implemented different prevention programs to minimize the risk of suicide. PSU’s methods for decreasing suicide rates include providing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on their counseling page, the counseling center, the Campus Police Department, and in some cases, gatekeeper training.

One of the most successful methods for suicide prevention on college campuses is gatekeeper training. A study performed by M. Delores Cimini et al. assessed the effectiveness of gatekeeper training on college campuses. The most common risk factors for suicide on college campuses include depression, relationships, academia, psychiatric disorders, and previous hospitalization (Cimini et al., 2014). After the completion of the interactive gatekeep training, results showed an increase in knowledge and comfort when talking about suicide to others. A follow up three months after the training indicated a decrease in knowledge and comfort levels in participants, yet still an increase in both levels compared to that prior of program completion. Since the prevention program was given to students that may be at higher risk of suicide, the Institute of Medicine would classify this type of program as selective. A similar study was performed by Natalie Indelicato, Anca Mirsu-Paun, and Wayne griffin. Results of this study were very similar to the previous study. Differentially, results showed that women generally score higher regarding self-knowledge about suicide, suicide prevention, awareness of available resources, and are more likely to ask someone if they are contemplating suicide (Indelicato et al., 2011). Additionally, follow up questionnaires were scheduled in intervals at one month, two months, and three months post training. For those that participated in post-training exercises following the program, skills were maintained throughout the 3-month survey period. By training different populations, students, faculty, and student employees on campus, prevention programs are likely to be more effective.

If college campuses were able to identify students at higher risk of suicide earlier, the less likely students are to commit suicide. Another case study did just that- by requiring Residential Advisors at Syracuse University to complete gatekeeper training. The goal of this training is to improve identification of those at risk of suicide, gain knowledge on appropriate intervention skills, and being able to refer students to appropriate resources (Pasco et al., 2012). Residential Advisors were educated about prevalence rates, warning signs, and ways to ask someone if they are contemplating suicide. A vital component of this training involves active listening. Trainees were given either a 3-hour course or a 1.5 hour condensed course, followed by another 1.5-hour course. Once again, women demonstrated better response skills than man in crisis responses. Experiential activities, like role play, proved to be more beneficial for trainees, and overall increased their knowledge and skills.

Another method of prevention programs is the use of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). A study in 2015 tested college students’ knowledge of the NSLP. They were asked the hours of operation, the cost of the service, who they would be speaking with, and if they have ever called for either themselves or a friend. One of the most common advertising locations for the NSPL are college campuses, yet 37% of participants claimed to have never seen an advertisement for the program (Hedman, 2018). The study suggests that most students (71%) stated the NSPL would be beneficial if they have attempted suicide, plan to attempt suicide, or experience suicide ideation. The program would seemingly be more effective if students knew more about the program, like its benefits, such as its 24/7 service and free use. The more useful students believe the program is, the more likely they are to use it.

Research has shown that college age students are at higher risk for suicide. Programs such as gatekeeper training and the NSPL have been found to be the most effective prevention programs. They ultimately decrease the rate of suicide, increase knowledge and comfort when addressing those considering suicide, and educate students on the resources available to them if they need help. The programs previously mentioned are selective level programs on the Institute of Medicine program model. The programs are targeted to those at higher risk of committing suicide but may not necessarily have a diagnosis for a mental disorder. Plymouth Sate and other campuses can prevent the risk of suicide by informing students and faculty the warning signs and risk factors involved, as well as provide them with resources they could direct someone in need. By implementing programs such as gatekeeper training on college campuses, and having follow up forums regularly to maintain knowledge, college campuses can decrease suicide risk. Members of the college community will be better prepared to help someone in need, more likely to notice warning signs, and overall, more likely to save a life.

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Suicide Prevention Programs. (2020, Mar 18). Retrieved July 1, 2022 , from

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