The Boston University Suicide Prevention Program (BUSPP) has worked to develop and support a multimodal, comprehensive suicide prevention program with Boston University (BU) faculty, staff, parents, families, students, and targeted student groups including peer leaders, Reserve Officers’s Training Corps cadets, international students, Greek Life members, athletes, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student communities on campus.
We have worked to achieve all of the following:1.Increase awareness, both universally and within these targeted populations, of the signs and symptoms of depression, student distress, suicide risk, and helpful university resources.2.Increase help-seeking behaviors by decreasing barriers including stigma, lack of awareness, cultural barriers, and misinformation that inhibit utilization of mental health services and resources on our campus and within our community.3.Enhance linkages within the university community between mental health services, substance abuse services, gatekeepers, faculty, staff, students, families, and relevant external community services in such a way that they are sustainable and promote a BU culture of wellness.
The BUSPP activities in our first year have included the implementation of the evidence-based Student Support Network Training (a Cohort II product from Worcester Polytechnic Institute) that teaches students to be empathetic listeners and excellent referrers to university resources. To date we have trained 250 students. Educational seminars have been given to most departments on campus about campus suicide and mental health promotion. Suicide prevention materials including a ruler to measure the signs of distress have been developed and handed out at large university functions such as resident assistant orientation, freshman orientation, resource tables during finals, and student activities fairs. A website (http://www.bu.edu/mentalhealth) was unveiled last spring that depicts student voices sharing how important seeking help was to their ability to be well and succeed in college when they were distressed. This website was the product of the development of a mental health roundtable that meets regularly to increase communication and collaboration between university gatekeepers and students. Two webinars on mental health and suicide have been developed and delivered to all 4,000 freshmen through the software Student Health 101. Information about mental health distress and the opportunity to be involved in the Student Support Network Training has been disseminated through the monthly electronic family news. We have spent the year marketing with high visibility for the entire university, the importance of positive mental health and seeking help when distressed. Our marketing activities have included presentations to the BU leadership councils, implementation of National Depression Screening Day across the university, and publication of several front-page articles in the university media. The goal has been to reduce the shame and stigma that students and staff feel. In addition, we have worked closely as Active Minds faculty advisors. Last spring we implemented a POST SECRET project that resulted in 1,000 BU students sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings on decorated postcards that were displayed at three sites across campus.