Thomas Jefferson University/Jefferson Medical College

Garrett Lee Smith Campus

JeffHELP is a multi-disciplinary infrastructure consisting of stakeholders’ groups from all facets of campus life designed to develop, implement, and evaluate a campus-based suicide prevention program at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), a health sciences university in Philadelphia. We plan to increase awareness, educate about suicide risk, link individuals to services who need them, and promote healthy behaviors across our campus community of 14,204 students, faculty, and staff. Unlike most colleges and universities in the United States, TJU specifically focuses on students preparing to enter health professional fields. This presents numerous challenges and demands unique to our population of students and those faculty and staff with whom they interact. Medical students face an increased risk of suicide compared to age-matched controls (Schernhammer, 2005) and are reluctant to use mental health services (Tjia et al., 2005; Clark & Zeldow, 1988). A recent survey completed at TJU found that students in other health professional fields are at similar or increased risk compared to the medical students (Wintersteen et al., 2011).

The overarching goals of JeffHELP are to 1) create an infrastructure for the delivery and sustainability of effective mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services, and 2) create a culture of acceptance of support for psychosocial issues. To achieve these goals, we will have five objectives, modeled after the Jed Foundation’s Model for Comprehensive Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities.

Objective 1. (Jeff) Develop key stakeholders’ groups on campus focused on mental health and reducing suicide risk. We will form a Committee on Campus Mental Health, comprised of administrators in a number of key campus areas, to provide oversight to the project. A Campus Suicide Prevention Task Force, comprised largely of students, will assist with implementation efforts.

Objective 2. (H) Heightened Awareness – increase awareness across the Jefferson community about suicide risk, help-seeking, and lethal means restriction through print and multimedia formats and promoting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Objective 3. (E) Educate members of the Jefferson community about risk factors and warning signs of suicide both in the classroom and faculty meetings.

Objective 4. (L) Improve linkages to mental health and substance abuse services on- and off-campus through heightened screening efforts by the Student Personal Counseling Center and University Health Services, as well as improving our capacity to refer off-campus.

Objective 5. (P) Promote better health practices among the Jefferson community, including the facilitation of social support networks and wellness activities. Throughout this process, we will partner with the Pennsylvania State grantee and the Jed Foundation, both of whom will provide consultation to our campus project.