Thursday, August 2, 2012

Universities Offer Online Suicide Prevention Counseling

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and college students are getting ready to head back to their college campuses. Many students are spending the last few weeks of vacation by shopping for items they may need for their dorm room or apartment, some are catching up on their summer reading list for their desired college program, some might be making plans to find a part time job when they return to school or applying for a work-study placement on campus. Sadly, some students are struggling with depression and are wondering how they are going to make it through another semester without "help."

But where do college students turn for help? They might confide in their friends, they might reach out to a professor or a resident assistant, they may reach out to a counselor in the student health center; however,  some will isolate themselves and not have the nerve to reach out for help. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) an estimated 15% of students suffer from depression and other mental disorders, putting them at risk for suicide. In an effort to assist colleges in reaching these students the foundation has created an online Interactive Screening Program (ISP). According to the AFSP's website:
"During the academic year, AFSP will expand its innovative, anonymous Interactive Screening Program for college/university students, which has been shown effective in getting those at risk into treatment. The ISP is now in place in over 40 colleges and universities nationwide, including Emory University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, the University of Colorado, the University at Albany (SUNY) and all 10 University of California schools. Also among this number are six medical schools, including those at Ohio State University College, the University of Massachusetts and the University of California at San Diego. At least 20 additional colleges and universities will be able to join the program in 2012."
Students are made aware of this online service by receiving an email which invites them to anonymously complete a survey. If the survey answers indicate a problem, then the counselors will encourage the student to continue communicating anonymously, via the website.

The Los Angeles Times reports that:
 "At the beginning of each term, officials from the school explain the program and stress that it protects the user's identity. Email addresses are encrypted throughout the process, and the administration has decided to never, under any circumstances, remove the encryptions. The service soon will be available on mobile devices, and the foundation is working on programs for veterans and active-duty military, corporations and law enforcement agencies. In California, the program [at the UC Campuses] is paid for through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act, a state tax initiative passed in 2004."

Looking forward...here's to a healthy school year! Learn more about the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
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