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Life-saving outreach

作者:佚名    文章来源:网络    点击数:    更新时间:2010-12-11

Suicide rates at college campuses have been relatively low and constant over the past several years—about 7.5 per 100,000 students compared with about 15 per 100,000 matched young people in the non-college population, according to a 10-year study in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (Vol. 27, No. 3). Nonetheless, counseling centers' perceptions that more highly troubled students are entering their doors are prompting center directors to try fresh suicide-prevention tactics.

For many campuses, that means beefing up counseling services and fostering campus climates that encourage people to seek help. Some centers are seeking extra funds from their institutions, while others are seeking grant money from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other entities (see Congress funds innovative prevention programs). Other institutions are increasing services for more troubled students without extra resources, making it more difficult to adequately address the needs of those with more normative problems, some say.

Some of the new efforts are casting wider nets to reach more people, such as through student-friendly Web sites and public education campaigns. Others are taking creative approaches to counseling, for instance, by making services available to students in places they frequent and de-stigmatizing services by calling them "consulting" services.

"The change is to be a little more 'out there' in terms of developing innovative ways to reach and engage the current generation of students, faculty and staff," says Todd Sevig, PhD, director of counseling and psychological services at the University of Michigan.

Preliminary results—which show that these efforts are reaching a broader range of students and that more students are using mental health services—suggest the changes are worth it, center directors say.

Creating 'campuses of caring'

Cornell University launched a new suicide-prevention program in 2002 following the suicides of three students within a short span of time. While the suicide rate was generally consistent with the national average, campus officials were concerned about the impact on students' mental health, says Gregory Eells, PhD, director of Cornell's Counseling and Psychological Services.

So in 2003, Cornell's Division of Student and Academic Services and the provost provided extra funds to increase the number of positions in the counseling service and to increase health promotion and anti-suicide activities on campus. Campus psychologists were inspired by a comprehensive Air Force suicide-prevention program designed by psychologist Kerry L. Knox, PhD, whose program reduced suicide risk by a third, according to a 2003 study in the British Medical Journal (Vol. 327, No. 7428). The success of her program hinged on two factors: harnessing leaders' support and sending the message that the entire community needed to play a part.

Cornell took a similar tack. The school convened a mental health and welfare council and, to foster a sense of community, created a team of administrators, campus police, residence life staff and counselors, who meet weekly to discuss signs of student distress. The counseling center also trained faculty and staff—from custodians to faculty members to department secretaries—to recognize and report worrisome student behavior.

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