JagConnect Campus Suicide Prevention Program

Posted on January 1, 2014 by Tres Stefurak
Tres Stefurak

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National Suicide Prevention HotlineSuicide takes the lives of nearly 45,000 Americans every year and is the 2nd leading cause of death on college campuses (Centers for Disease Control, 2018).  In response to the rate of suicides on college campuses and a “call to action” by the surgeon general, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was written into law in 2004.  The primary aim of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was to provide funding for college campuses and states to help reduce the nationwide burden of youth and young adult suicide.  Phillip N. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of psychology, and his Suicide Prevention Research Lab was awarded this prestigious and crucial grant to help fund the JagConnect Suicide Prevention initiative at the University of South Alabama.

Since the awarding of the grant, the JagConnect Suicide Prevention Program has flourished.  The JagConnect program has focused on establishing, maintaining, and improving four primary initiatives with the hopes to reduce the rate of suicidal thoughts, attempts, and deaths on South’s campus, while also building a culture of community and connection.  These four initiatives include developing policies and procedures to better aid University staff in the event that there is a student at acute suicide risk, developing and implementing suicide prevention gatekeeper training, developing and disseminating information and building awareness about suicide prevention and mental health, and further building connections on South’s campus through the training of staff and educating the larger campus community.

The JagConnect Suicide Prevention Program boasts a number of major accomplishments. First, over 500 students, including all Resident Assistants and Community Directors, received training in the Alliance Project Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Program.  These Alliance Project trainings aim to improve interpersonal connection and mental health treatment referrals with those who may be in distress or potentially suicidal. Second, students, faculty, and staff at Counseling and Testing Services and the USA Psychological Clinic as well as over 200 community police officers in the Mobile and Baldwin County area have received suicide risk assessment training in order to better serve our students and campus community in times of acute crises.  Third, a suicide prevention marketing campaign has made its’ way across campus. Posters were disseminated in nearly all residence halls and classroom buildings, and a website was developed and disseminated which shares facts, resources, and event information to the USA campus community. Fourth, a suicidal crisis response protocol was developed through collaborations between the JagConnect team, Counseling and Testing Services, the USA Police Department, Dean of Students, and other faculty, staff, and administrators. This crisis response protocol provides guidance to campus community members on the process of assisting a student who is in an acute suicidal crisis access appropriate mental health treatment.  Furthermore, to facilitate timely access to mental health care Darleen Dempster, interim Director of Counseling and Testing Services and a member of the JagConnect team, developed and implemented a Crisis Triage Appointment System that allows students in crisis to be seen by a counselor without an appointment. Lastly, collaborations with local community partners including SOMI Club and the National Alliance for Mental Illness-Mobile Chapter have made a larger impact across our community with the provision of risk assessment trainings and partnerships in local events.Dr. Phil Smith

Through their multi-tiered initiative, the JagConnect team hopes that they have already made a lasting positive impact on the mental health and welfare of the USA community.  But there is still much work to be done to prevent suicide at South and across the Mobile community. New projects and efforts are constantly in the works. Any individuals or groups wishing to become members of the JagConnect team or who wish to host a JagConnect event (e.g., gatekeeper training, stress management workshop, mental health and suicide prevention awareness seminar or table, or any other event) should contact Dr. Phillip N. Smith at pnsmith@southalabama.edu.


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