We have two stakeholders’ groups on campus focused on mental health and reducing suicide risk.
- The University Student Services Committee serves as the University’s primary leadership team for this project. This committee consists of members from Academic Affairs, designees from the Deans’ Offices, representative from the Registrar’s Office and each of Jefferson’s Schools and Colleges, and the Directors of Student Health, the Student Personal Counseling Center, Student Activities, and Resident Life. The purpose of this group for JeffHELP is to review campus mental health and suicide prevention activities, offer recommendations for activities and/or dissemination of campus activities, assist in the facilitation of prevention efforts, review findings throughout the course of the project, and offer recommendations based on the findings.
- The Campus Suicide Prevention Task Force consists of a subgroup of Active Minds students and assists in the planning and dissemination of project activities. This group will also have representation from numerous student organizations, as well as a faculty representative for each of the University’s Schools and Colleges. One key activity shared by these stakeholders’ groups will be a series of focus groups for students and faculty on mental health needs of students on campus and how we may begin to more systematically address these needs and support students throughout the educational process.
Additionally, to address our needs and achieve the goal of integrating student health into the fabric of campus life, consults with The Jed Foundation and follows the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion.
(H) Heightened Awareness
The main focus of this objective is to increase awareness of suicide and associated risk factors through outreach to students, faculty, and staff. We aim to fulfill the following:
- Promoting existing student awareness campaigns such as ULifeline.org and Halfofus.com
- Developing print materials on suicide risk and health promotion for Student Health, Resident Life, and other campus organizations
- Developing print materials for families of students regarding warning signs of risk
- Promoting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Working with Medical Media to develop a video series. Topics include depression in students in health professions, decreasing stigma, increasing individual help-seeking, and overcoming interpersonal barriers to assisting others to seek help.
The main focus is to increase awareness of suicide and associated risk factors through outreach to students, faculty, and staff. Additional focus will be on mental health promotion and anti-stigma messaging. This is accomplished through print materials, videos, and use of our website.
(E) Educational Enhancements
Our educational mission is to inform the community about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and risk assessment. Goals include:
- Working with curriculum committees to develop a brief training for students in all disciplines on suicide risk factors, warning signs, and risk assessment. This training will be integrated into normal coursework such as Introduction to Clinical Medicine, Behavioral and Social Theories in Public Health, and Psychiatric Nursing.
- Placing informational resources on mental health, including suicide risk factors and warning signs as well as clinical trainings on JeffHELP.org and on Jefferson Pulse
- Working with the clerkship directors in several primary care departments and Psychiatry to offer training to students rotating through these practices on suicide risk assessment for their patients.
- Partnering with the American Association of Suicidology to offer Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk in Primary Care (RRSR-PC), a Best Practice identified by SPRC, during Grand Rounds presentations to attending faculty in several key medical, nursing, and other clinical departments.
(L) Linkages to Services
This objective includes strategies to promote counseling services available to students, faculty, and staff at Jefferson through use of the following initiatives:
- Promoting the Student Personal Counseling Center (SPCC) for students and House staff and FIRSTCALL Employee Assistance Program for Jefferson faculty and staff
- Reaching out to students using the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Interactive Screening Program (ISP) in order to increase awareness of campus mental health services, identify those most in need of these services, and facilitate the necessary linkages to services.
- Implementing the Behavioral Health Screen (BHS) in University Health Services. The BHS is a web-based psychosocial screening tool covering a range of emotional and behavioral problems. It is well-validated 28 and the suicide items have been shown to increase identification of youth at risk for suicide 25. Students will be asked to complete the BHS prior to meeting with a provider.
- Developing a website for the SPCC that provides information for students on services and resources for off-campus services.
- Developing print materials to increase awareness of services by the Director of the SPCC in consultation with the Campus Suicide Prevention Task Force.
- Redesigning the current response plan for psychiatric emergencies into a Campus Crisis Response Plan.
(P) Promoting Better Health Practices
This objective focuses on promoting health practices to increase wellness and improve mental health by achieving the following:
- Working with the Student Activities Office to facilitate peer social support networks and wellness.
- Offering support groups for students bereaved by suicide
- Offering support groups for the entire Jefferson community for managing stress associated with rigorous academic expectations, handling interpersonal challenges while at school, and developing life and coping skills.
- Partnering with the Wellness Center and the Center for Integrative Medicine to promote healthy activities for students, faculty, and staff and offer alternative approaches to stress management, such as mindfulness.
The Mental Health of Students in Health Professions
- Suicide is believed to be the second leading cause of death among American college students (Suicide Prevention Resource Center [SPRC], 2004).
- Medical students face an increased risk of suicide. 20
- Several factors are related to increased suicide risk, including higher depression rates 6, 9 and burnout. 7
- Medical students are reluctant to use mental health services, furthering their risk for suicide. 4, 21, 23
- Depression, burnout, and compassion fatigue are not uncommon among those working in health professional fields. 3, 8
- No literature exists about suicide risk in students in these health professions.
Though no formal data exist on suicide attempts and deaths at TJU, a survey conducted in 2009 addressed risk factors across all Jefferson students.25
- The medical students exhibited similar rates of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation compared to other studies. 7, 21, 23, 24
- Students in the other health professions had rates similar or higher to the medical students in lifetime rate of suicidal ideation and in rate of suicide attempt.
- Many students reported having friends or family members who have attempted or died by suicide.
- A number of barriers to accessing services were identified: stigma, cost, and lack of knowledge about accessing services.
Based on these data, Jefferson has a clear need for enhanced infrastructure on its campus focused on meeting the mental health needs of its community.