University of West Florida

Suicide Outreach and Support
Garrett Lee Smith Campus

The University of West Florida (UWF) is an accredited, regional, comprehensive, public university serving nearly 12,000 students in the Northwest Florida region. UWF has proposed Suicide Outreach and Support (SOS), an integrated, coordinated, multi-level program that includes universal prevention strategies aimed at the general campus population, targeting male and female students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and ages. Special emphasis will be placed on reaching gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) students and military-affiliated students, including active duty service persons, veterans, and military spouses and dependents. SOS is anticipated to provide an effective mechanism for early identification of students in trouble and effective response to their needs. Since 2008, UWF has experienced the suicides of eight students, creating a rapid awareness of the need for effective suicide prevention programming on our campus. Like most other campuses, UWF students report high levels of mental disorder and psychological distress. UWF is fortunate to have high-quality, integrated and coordinated mental health services, including 24-hour emergency services, available free of charge to students who present for treatment. Unfortunately, many individuals in acute crisis are not connected to mental health services, as highlighted by the completed suicides on our campus, none of which was connected to campus mental health care at the time of the suicide. Universal prevention strategies aimed at the campus at large and selective prevention strategies aimed at specific higher-risk groups are needed to reach the goal of building a solid foundation to deliver and sustain suicide prevention strategies to decrease suicide attempts and completed suicides among UWF students, with a special emphasis on GLBTQ and military-affiliated students.

The proposed project aims to increase:

1) training to students, faculty, and staff on mental health promotion and suicide prevention, including suicide warning signs and risk factors

2) collaboration among campus and community partners to deliver the message that suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility

3) educational seminars and informational materials for students, faculty, staff, and family members on suicide prevention and identification and reduction of risk factors, such as depression and substance abuse

4) help-seeking among students and reduce stigma for seeking care for mental and behavioral health issues among students while increasing promotion of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The following activities will be implemented to achieve objectives:

a) QPR Gatekeeper Training, a training program that builds skills for recognizing suicide warning signs and responding effectively to them

b) a Suicide Prevention Coalition to coordinate, design, and review policies and procedures related to suicide prevention and crisis response

c) a Student Organization Network, to provide educational activities aimed at decreasing stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking

d) a Social Marketing Campaign to increase student knowledge and awareness of suicide warning signs and risk factors, with linkage to national suicide hotline resources.