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JCU to teach students, faculty prevention

October 1st, 2009

Mental health professionals at John Carroll University’s Counseling Center will participate in suicide prevention training through Campus Connect: A Suicide Prevention Training for Gatekeepers.

Campus Connect is a program founded at Syracuse University with the goal of training university staff, faculty and students to recognize warning signs, communicate effectively and know proper referral resources related to suicide and prevention.

“We want to ultimately be able to help those who are feeling really desperate to know that there are resources available to support them in difficult times,” said Mark McCarthy, vice president for student affairs.

The Jed Foundation, a national organization that aims to reduce the number of suicides and cases of depression among college students, reports that one in 10 college students have considered suicide.

After participating in the six-hour Campus Connect training, the participants are qualified to train other members of the campus community.

According to Director of Counseling Services John Ropar, although it may take a year or two, he hopes to extend the training to other faculty and staff on campus who have a great deal of interaction with students, such as coaches, campus ministry and resident advisors.

Pat Lyden, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Education Alliance of Northeast Ohio, said that while gatekeeper training for university employees is vitally important, it is not enough.

“Adults are not the people who know when a young person has a plan for suicide,” Lyden said. “Ninety percent of young people – high school and college [age] – tell a friend of their suicide intention or suicidal ideation. Therefore, we believe that, especially when resources are limited, the first line of defense in preventing youth suicide is to train students.”

SPEA held the Into the Light Walk at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo last Oct. 27. Sophomore team leader, Nathan Catalano, along with Katie Deiger, Kyle Ferstle, Meredith Kramer, Melissa Maksim, Michael Marincic, Jennifer Tamarkin and Ariel Zubarev represented JCU. The team raised $615 for the event.

“The Into the Light Walk renews the belief that from sadness comes joy, from darkness comes light,” said Catalano. “In four short days the JCU team raised nearly $600 and a few of Frank’s [Kinmonth] close friends attended the walk. Next year, the JCU community will make an effort to send a large team to the walk.”

The Campus Connect training was approved in August, and follows the addition of free psychiatry services for clients of the counseling center in the spring of 2009. The psychiatrist is available for half of a day, every two weeks.

“I wish we could have a program that would be foolproof, that would insure that we would never lose a student to suicide,” said Ropar. “Unfortunately that is impossible.  There is a combination of forces and factors that lead to this choice and we, as a campus community, cannot control for all of them.”

The program costs $4,500 and allows for 20-25 participants. Ropar said that JCU would invite other campuses to send participants to the training, which will be held in the next four to six weeks. This is in an effort to ensure the training sessions are filled, but will also lower the cost of the program for JCU.

McCarthy said that one of the goals of the suicide prevention program, which will be funded by the general student affairs budget, is to eventually extend the training so that as many students as possible can become gatekeepers.