Ohio University Starts Suicide Prevention Program

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Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students.

At Ohio University one-to-two students take their lives every year. Most of them are not known to campus mental health officials.

A new gatekeeper training program, developed originally by Syracuse University, could help reduce that number. The program trains OU employees how to detect students who might be considering suicide.

As a first step Cory Wallack, director at the Syracuse University Counseling Center, taught 27 staff members from campus institutions like housing, the OU Police Department and faculty to read the signs and to ask the right questions.

"How do I walk up to you and say I'm worried about you? How do I ask you if you are thinking about suicide? How do I offer to help you to get counseling?" Wallack said.

These gatekkepers will then go out and provide training to others. The goal is to train the entire campus.

Fred Weiner, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), called this program "Shoulder to Shoulder."

"It's the whole Bobcat family pulling together, shoulder to shoulder, to take care of our people," he said.

Listening, caring and empathy are the most important skills in keeping students safe, said Jenny Hall-Jones, OU Dean of Students and participant in the gatekeeper program.

"It's these things that you kind of already automatically know anyway," she said.

The training would be about refining those skills and practicing them. With this program Hall-Jones especially wants to empower the student community.

"We know that when students are in crises, who do they go to? They go to other students," Hall-Jones said.

Ohio University is now one of 200 campuses across the country that uses this suicide prevention program.