Getting Started

Efforts to promote emotional health and prevent mental health problems should be guided by a strategic thinking and planning process that includes the following:

  • Building support on campus
  • Using strategic planning
  • Applying a comprehensive approach

Building Support on Campus

Your efforts are more likely to succeed if there is broad participation and a shared commitment to meet common goals. Forming a task force can help establish the importance of the issue, ensure efficient use of resources, and prevent duplication of efforts. Sharing campus and national data on risk factors and groups, along with a summary of the issues of concern to key campus stakeholders, may help you obtain support from senior administrators.

Questions to consider when forming a mental health task force:

  • Who has the authority to create the task force (e.g., the president, provost, vice president of student affairs)?
  • What will be the task force’s mandate?
  • Who will be invited to participate? Who will lead?
  • How will the task force carry out its work?
  • How will the task force communicate with the campus community?

Strategic Planning

For suicide prevention efforts to show results, colleges must tailor their programs to meet the unique needs of their campuses. The strategic planning process provides campus leaders with a series of steps to guide program planning.

Taking the time to define the problem that needs to be addressed and having clearly defined goals will help maximize success. Whenever possible, campuses should select interventions using principles of evidence-based prevention.

Using a Comprehensive Approach

To be effective, your suicide prevention efforts should combine multiple approaches for addressing the risk and protective factors for suicide that impact your students. Sample strategies include:

  • Help all students develop life skills and resiliency
  • Ensure access to effective mental health and suicide care and treatment
  • Identify and assist students at risk
  • Follow crisis management procedures
  • Reduce access to means of suicide

Visit the Comprehensive Approach section of our website for more on this topic. To learn more about how to get started, see Campus MHAP: A guide to campus mental health action planning. The guide:

  • Outlines the infrastructure that needs to be in place to build and sustain an effective effort
  • Guides campus planners in using a strategic planning process
  • Describes specific strategies that can be included in your comprehensive approach