SIUE School of Pharmacy iCare Grant to Heighten Suicide Awareness

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing, and SIUE Counseling Services have received a 2015 Campus Suicide Prevention Grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) valued at $299,442.

Kelly Gable, associate professor of pharmacy practice in the SIUE School of Pharmacy.

... teach students to empower each other to seek help when faced with depression or suicidal thoughts.

December is a difficult month for mental illness as individuals may struggle with depression and family strife during the holiday season, while college students across the country attempt to manage the stress and anxiety of fall semester final exams.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is committed to empowering students with steadfast safety and support. Further strengthening that promise is the SIUE Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing, and SIUE Counseling Services’ receipt of a 2015 Campus Suicide Prevention Grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) valued at $299,442.

The SIUE iCARE suicide prevention initiative is an aggressive, multi-tiered approach to increase awareness and education on recognition of at-risk behaviors of students in crisis, improve campus policies and procedures for assisting these students, and reduce negative stigmas of counseling and help-seeking.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate among 15- to 24-year-olds has increased steadily over the last few years. Suicide Prevention Resource Center research reveals that 6.6-7.5 percent of college undergrads seriously considered suicide in 2012. More than 1,000 college students commit suicide annually.

According to cisternyard.com, the stress of college can often become overwhelming for students on college campuses. This stress is only exacerbated when students have to hold a job, fulfill an internship or participate in an extracurricular activity. Dealing with failure can be painful. For many students, these experiences can quickly add up and become unbearable.

“Multiple stressors, such as grade pressure and social media influence, coupled with an emerging sense of self are all part of a young student’s college life, and can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression,” said Kelly Gable, associate professor of pharmacy practice in the SIUE School of Pharmacy (SOP). “Suicidality, while not always present with depression, is a serious symptom that may go unnoticed if a student feels uncomfortable talking about mental health struggles or is not aware of their treatment options.

“We are hopeful that this newly funded initiative will not only raise awareness about suicide prevention, but also teach students to empower each other to seek help when faced with depression or suicidal thoughts.”

As most institutions of higher education struggle with ever shrinking resources, SIUE proposes to significantly engage its student body to assist in the planning, deployment and evaluation of the iCARE suicide prevention initiative.

SIUE will introduce a branded messaging campaign to enhance awareness around suicide, while simultaneously driving interest in more comprehensive suicide prevention training.

The iCARE executive council plans on developing and reviewing current campus policies and procedures for assisting students at risk or in crisis, as well as drafting a formal crisis management plan. “Our aim is to replace individual department or school policies or procedures with one, all-inclusive, campus-wide policy and procedure,” Kerr explained.

An executive steering council (iCARE ESC) will be charged with oversight of the project. The ESC will ultimately transition to an SIUE standing committee. The function of the standing committee following project completion will be to advise the director of counseling and dean of students on policies, procedures, programmatic development and outreach pertaining to suicide prevention and crisis management.

Members of the iCARE ESC include the director of counseling services, iCARE project coordinator, co-investigators on the Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, a representative from campus police, a representative from each of three student organizations - College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP), Mental Illness and Suicide Support Alliance (MISSA), Active Minds - and two external, non-SIUE stakeholder representatives (Karla Smith Foundation and Mental Health of America Illinois).

Competency assessment tools will be created by the iCARE ESC for educational materials. Additionally, the ESC will annually review all campus policies and procedures relating to suicide prevention, awareness and crisis management. The ESC will initiate the process of developing a suicide prevention/crisis response plan.

“The primary focus of the iCARE project is the identification or creation of exceptional training materials for our students, faculty and staff, realizing these individuals are our best resource in recognizing students at risk or in crisis,” Gable stated. “In many instances, ‘gatekeepers’ receive different training opportunities than do typical students. We believe that the college peer is the best gatekeeper for detecting behaviors indicative of a student in crisis. Therefore, we propose to utilize one core training program to be completed by students, faculty, staff and administration.”

Annual guest speakers will be invited to lecture on warning signs of suicide, impact on families or loved ones and risk factors for self-harm. The speaker series will augment other messaging to the SIUE student body.

The iCARE ESC will ensure that all policies, procedures, management plans, messaging and educational resources promote the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The iCARE project will utilize brief informational messaging to drive interest in online educational resource participation and assessment completion. Informational messaging will be branded to the target age population with the messaging/media campaign including, in its entirety, the key components of identification of a student at risk.

SIUE School of Pharmacy: Today’s pharmacists improve patients’ lives through the medication and education they provide. Dedicated to developing a community of caring pharmacists, the SIUE School of Pharmacy curriculum is nationally recognized as a model that offers students a unique combination of classroom education, research, community service and patient care. The School of Pharmacy’s areas of excellence include drug design and discovery core; pediatric practice; chronic pain research and practice; and diabetes research and practice. As the only downstate Illinois pharmacy doctorate program, the SIUE School of Pharmacy is addressing the growing need for highly trained pharmacists in a rapidly growing field.

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