UTRGV med school awarded grant for suicide education, prevention program

The UTRGV School of Medicine’s Office of Counseling and Wellness has been awarded a three- year grant in the amount of $304,490 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to implement a Campus Suicide Prevention Program (CSPP). UTRGV was the only university in Texas to receive the award.

The program is in collaboration with the UTRGV Counseling Center (CC) and the Office of Continuing Education.

Dr. Eugenia Curet, School of Medicine assistant dean for Counseling and Wellness, is principal investigator of the project, with Dr. Christopher Albert, director of the Counseling Center, as co-PI.

The UTRGV Office of Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, the Valley Baptist Medical Center and the Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Center leant support for the proposal.

The program’s overall goal is to raise awareness of suicide as a critical but preventable issue among the university students, staff and faculty. It will address the numerous risk factors facing its target population through the implementation of training programs and activities geared to educate the faculty, staff and students of the School of Medicine and within the UTRGV community on the identification and prevention of suicidal behaviors and timely appropriate intervention measures.

Specifically, the UTRGV program will adhere to the recommendations for best practice detailed in the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

  • Create supportive environments that promote healthy and empowered individuals, families, and communities.
  • Enhance clinical and community preventive services.
  • Promote the availability of timely treatment and support services.
  • Improve suicide prevention surveillance collection, research, and evaluation.

The School of Medicine’s Office of Student Support, Counseling and Wellness (SSCW) in collaboration with the Counseling Center, will lead the implementation of the CSPP. The SSCW, in partnership with the Office of Continuing Education, will provide specialized training, employing the QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Model, to more than 200 faculty, staff and student leaders annually.

The QPR, a standardized program used in schools across the country as well as by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, delivers a broad assessment and intervention strategy for addressing issues of suicidality on college campuses.

The program will implement outreach activities for students and their families and awareness campaigns that seek to destigmatize mental illness, and will develop wellness programs and establish collaborative partnerships with other UTRGV departments and community-based mental health agencies.

Dr. Eugenia Curet, the principal investigator for the project, said information is key.

“Being aware of behaviors and/or warning signs that precede suicidal attempts might help in preventing someone from committing suicide,’ Curet said. “The Campus Suicide Prevention Program will provide prevention education useful for students, staff and faculty to intervene when faced with individuals at risk for suicide.”

The CSPP ultimately will result in a comprehensive plan designed to prevent suicidal behaviors among students and to facilitate the timely utilization of mental health services for those at risk.

Jayshree Bhat, director of Continuing Education, said the project will serve an unmet need for appropriately trained professionals who understand how to effectively identify warning signs and intervene swiftly to reduce suicide rates among college students.