Kent State Receives Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant
Kent State University's College of Public Health has received a $306,000 federal grant to be used for suicide prevention and to address other student mental health needs.
The Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant will help to fund the project, More Aware, a collaboration among Student Affairs, University Health Services, Student Support Services, and other divisions across the university.
The grant was awarded to the Division of Mental Health and Substance Use (DMHSU) within the College of Public Health’s Center for Public Policy and Health. The three-year grant is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and covers Kent State's entire eight-campus system.
The money, $102,000 per year for three years, is to be used to reduce the adverse consequences of serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders, including suicidal behavior, chronic mental health disorders and substance-related injuries.
Deric Kenne, Ph.D., associate director of DMHSU and project director for the grant, said the money will make a huge impact in terms of raising awareness and promoting mental health for Kent State students.
“National data has shown us over the past several years that the prevalence and severity of mental health issues among students have steadily increased,” Dr. Kenne said . “There is no shortage of students looking for help, and this grant gives us greater ability to provide mental health-related programming that can effectively help students.”
In order to use the grant to its fullest extent, a college or university must focus on four primary areas: enhancement of services for all college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness or substance use disorders that can lead to school failure; prevention of mental and substance use disorders; promotion of help-seeking behavior by reducing the stigma related to mental health disorders; and substance use and improvement of the identification and treatment of at-risk college students so they can successfully complete their studies.
Kim Laurene, Ph.D., research and programming associate for DMHSU and project coordinator for the grant, said these guidelines of improvement have been helpful in creating the programs funded under the grant.
“What is extremely powerful about this grant is that it provides multiple opportunities for everyone on campus to get involved with mental health awareness and suicide prevention,” Dr. Laurene said.
To successfully make an impact in the four areas of improvement, DMHSU, along with the Kent State of Wellness, University Health Services and others, is implementing several key initiatives.
First, Kent State is promoting existing opportunities for mental health and substance misuse screenings for students on campus. These screenings will be able to take place in person and anonymously online.
“Through the grant, we want to let students know about all the opportunities they have to get screened for mental health issues on campus,” Dr. Kenne said. “It’s an important first step in helping with mental health issues.”
Kent State is also offering more options for mental health awareness training. DMHSU has previously offered an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for students and staff. The training improves knowledge of mental health and substance use problems and teaches people how to connect those in need of mental health services with the appropriate professional resources.
In addition to continuing the first aid program, the grant allows DMHSU to offer more abbreviated training programs for students and staff. These programs include Kognito, an online, interactive mental health awareness simulation, and Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training, a self-guided 60-minute online training that teaches participants techniques that can help save a life from suicide. The training programs are free to all students and staff.
“We wanted to offer mental health awareness training to students and staff in a more accessible way,” Dr. Kenne said. “This way, we have the opportunity to have at least a few individuals in every school on campus who know how to approach these situations.”
Through these training programs, DMHSU has also established the “Hear to Help” initiative, which helps connect students in need with other students and staff who have completed one or more of the mental health awareness training programs. These students and staff can be identified by their “Hear to Help” stickers.
Lastly, DMHSU is creating and hosting “Flash-Ups.” With help from the Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassadors, the Public Health Student Alliance and the newly-established Student Mental Health Coalition, DMHSU is holding “Flash-Ups,” which are tabling events across campus that encourage students to take mindful breaks and learn more about mental health and substance misuse help that is offered on campus.
Chelsea Kennedy, MPH ‘18 and DMHSU project coordinator, said that several “Flash-Ups” have already been implemented.
“We’ve done tabling events where we’ve passed out t-shirts and mental health awareness information, and we’ve also done some more creative events, like holding create-your-own mini potted plant stations, mediation sessions and, most recently, an “elf yourself” photo station,” Ms. Kennedy said. “The purpose of these events is to be both relaxing and informative, and so far we believe they've been successful in both areas.”
Since the start of its implementation in October, the programs funded by the grant already have seen success. Fifty-four people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid and 329 people have completed an online QPR or Kognito training.
Dr. Kenne also said the grant and its funded programs have also helped to unite the multiple mental health-oriented departments and organizations on campus, as one unified front.
“There are a lot of places on campus where help for mental health issues and substance misuse is offered, but there hasn’t been a lot of collaboration as far as communication or services offered,” Dr. Kenne said. “This grant has been a great way to bridge the gap between all these departments and organizations and bring us all together to work towards a shared goal.”