(From Northwest News Services)
Northwest Missouri State University’s Wellness Services was recently awarded the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Program grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The $306,000 grant will support Northwest’s development of a prevention program called “Hope 4 All.” It will fund a new suicide prevention program coordinator for three years.
The grant is designed to help college campuses construct infrastructure for suicide prevention. Its goal is to develop approaches to improve mental health services, reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders in young adults, encourage people to seek help when needed, and identify and treat those who many need help.
BK Taylor, assistant director of wellness services and prevention, outreach and education, and Kristen Peltz, assistant director of wellness services counseling, hope the program can create a foundation and system change to culturally impact the entire institution. They hope it will help prevent suicide and develop psychological well-being and resiliency.
“We know that we are in a critical place with students and their psychological and emotional well-being,” Peltz said. “Challenges grow more and more for students each day. We recognize that we have to do things to get upstream. We have to take preventative measures and look for opportunities to invest in early intervention. Also, this program is not just for students; it’s for faculty and staff as well so we’re all on the same page.”
Northwest has a foundation built around campus well-being. Wellness Services offers outpatient clinical care, personal development, counseling and Bearcat peer education. Some programs Wellness Services offers include Northwest Coalition Against Violence, Greeks Advocating for Mature Management of Alcohol, and To Write Love On Her Arms.
University Police Department is involved as well. Their programs address personal safety, alcohol and drugs, self-defense education and discussing sexual assault.
“We need to have support for emotional well-being and for mental health issues,” Peltz said. “That was the huge piece of the motivation in applying for the SAMHSA grant so we have the resources to go this next step. We cannot pretend that people do not experience mental health difficulties and we must take action. The more we can be proactive, the more upstream we are and implementing programming and interventions, then hopefully we can make a difference.”
Taylor added, “We all need support, growth with each other, flourishment and development for this system to be successful. It’s not just about preventing suicide, it’s about cultivating well-being. What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to experience joy and happiness, engagement and accomplishment? That’s what we want to bring.”
Taylor and Peltz hope the program will influence Northwest and the community. They want to spread the message with the help of students, staff and faculty.
“Kristen and I work in the field, but the change in the culture and investment in the community will make things happen,” Taylor said. “We want everyone involved. How things really change, how Northwest becomes psychologically and emotionally well is a product of everyone.”
The program is highly competitive with Northwest among 24 institutions to be funded throughout the nation. Northwest is the only Missouri school.