George Mason University
George Mason University currently has more than 32,000 students and is located within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and as such Mason’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) serves a highly diverse group of students. However, some groups are less likely to seek out mental health services and be seen at CAPS. Unfortunately, these same groups are often at higher risk of mental health related concerns and suicide. The agency provides targeted outreach services to these groups, which include international students, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, students with physical/learning disabilities, returning veterans, and men.
Mason is currently engaged in several suicide prevention activities, and much of the suicide prevention efforts have been initiated and implemented by the CAPS clinical staff. The current Mason CARES: (Campus Awareness, Referral and Education for Suicide Prevention) Suicide Prevention Program aims to expand current programming in several key areas. First, given the profound impact that suicide has upon the entire university community, it is our belief that no single department on campus can take sole responsibility for suicide prevention. Therefore, we plan to develop a multidisciplinary Suicide Prevention Team comprised of key stakeholders on campus that will generate campus wide initiatives targeting education, training, development of administrative policies, and campus needs assessment around mental health and suicide prevention issues. Second, we intend to implement a broad based training component by expanding upon our current gatekeeper training of faculty, staff, and students to include a new multi-method approach. It is our belief that a one size fits all training approach does not meet the needs of diverse a campus like Mason. Third, based on the data that peers reach out to other peers for support when dealing with suicidal ideation, it is clear that students must become a critical intervention point in the effort to prevent suicide. With this in mind, we propose developing a mental health awareness and suicide prevention Peer Educator Program. Peer Educators will play a central role in developing and implementing programming, media, and awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma around mental health and suicide prevention for the Mason community. Finally, it is our intention to develop both active and passive suicide prevention awareness campaigns on campus, which will include creating educational material, handouts, and media targeting students and their families during orientation programming.