Pennsylvania State University – Altoona

Pennsylvania State University - Altoona
Garrett Lee Smith Campus

In response to the growing issues related to depression and substance abuse, the goal of Penn State Altoona’s suicide prevention project is to tighten the safety net already in place by enhancing existing programs and adding several innovative programs focusing on early identification of high-risk students and appropriate intervention. These approaches will benefit not only the target population of high-risk students but the campus community at large. The campus culture represents individuals of diverse cultures, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, abilities, and sets of personal values. This project will reflect issues of diversity and will seek to increase utilization of counseling services through coordinated activities and initiatives offered across campus to allow us to better reach all of our students.

National and local data clearly identify depression as impacting quality of life as well as academic success. In response to this, Penn State Altoona has designed a program that willÂ? develop training programs for students and campus personnel, create a campus community network, develop and implement educational seminars, promote linkage to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and prepare informational material for families. Specific suicide prevention objectives include the development of an internal mechanism for the identification and reporting of students in distress, training of faculty and staff in the role of gatekeeper, and improvement of awareness and effective intervention and referral throughout the campus community.

Two key innovative approaches that were developed include the Early Alert System and a web-based training program for faculty/staff and students. The Early Alert program helps to identify students displaying academic or emotional distress and provides support and referral information to those students. The web-based training program for faculty/staff and students focuses on identifying symptoms of distress, normalizing approach, and building confidence and skill related to referral. This product by Kognito uses gaming technology to effectively train participants through virtual role-play. We have also developed two 60- to 90-second trailers which are linked to a stress reduction and mental health awareness website which assists in awareness education and emotional management.Â?

Currently we are working with John Jay University in New York City and the Jed Foundation to develop a research study looking at parent attitudes, beliefs, and actions related to mental health issues in the student college population. This study will be a followup to the Jed Foundation parent survey in 2007. We expect to launch the survey in February 2011. Additional goals of this project are to increase the awareness of issues of behavioral health by developing educational companion materials. Finally, this project will allow Penn State Altoona to take full advantage of the data that is gathered by expanding the analysis to focus specifically on increased utilization of services and increased help seeking.