UNT receives $450,000 federal grant for suicide prevention programs

Thursday, October 5, 2006

According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2005, 1.8 million youths in America had thoughts about killing themselves during their worst or most recent episode of major depression. Approximately 900,000 of these youths made plans to commit suicide, and 712,000 acted on those plans by attempting suicide.

The University of North Texas will provide more assistance to students at risk for suicide after receiving a Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from SAMHS, part of the U.S. Department of Health of Human Services.

Thirty-four colleges and universities in the nation received SAHMS grants, which support initiatives for suicide prevention and enhanced services for youth depression, other mental health problems, and substance abuse that put them at risk for suicide. UNT and the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg were the only Texas universities to receive the grants.

Over the next three years, UNT's grant and designated matching university funds will provide $450,000 to a project focusing on the development of training programs to respond effectively to students with mental health and behavioral health problems.

Calling suicide a "preventable tragedy" earlier this month at the time SAMHSA announced the 2006 grant recipients, Assistant Surgeon General and Acting Deputy Administrator of SAMHSA Eric Broderick cited this round of grants as "an important part of the solution" to a national problem.

Dr. Carolyn Kern, associate professor in UNT's Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education and principal investigator for the university's project, says UNT's first priority will be to train faculty and staff in counseling and residential life areas to develop initiatives that specifically address suicide intervention and prevention.

Kern and Dr. Bonita Jacobs, UNT's vice president for student development and the project's co-investigator, explain that current students are bringing greater levels of emotional problems to college than students faced even five years ago.

"In addition to greater personal and financial burdens, today's students are experiencing increased pressures to achieve, and all of these are reasons why depression and anxiety is more apparent than in past years," Kern said. "Our aim is to build a campus wide network to help young people - who cannot see a way out of depression and frustration - to find new ways to look outside themselves."

The UNT group will use the grant to develop training programs, including one comprehensive workshop specifically for counseling staff and a shorter training session for general staff.

The first year will be devoted to work on the campus and in years two and three, it will reach out to the greater Denton community.

In addition to Kern and Jacobs, UNT project leaders include Dr. Maureen Clouse, associate director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life; Dr. Jan Hillman, executive director for the Office of Planning and Advancement for Student Development; Dr. Judith McConnell, director of the Counseling and Testing Center and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology; Dr. Casey Barrio, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education; Kent Boring, a master's level student in the counseling program; Carol Mercer, a doctoral student in the counseling program and assistant clinic director in the Counseling and Human Development Center in the College of Education; and Derrick Paladino, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and former director of the Counseling Center at the UNT Dallas Campus.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108