Bill Would Standardize College Suicide Prevention Programs

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After passing legislation at the last General Assembly that required Ohio public high schools to provide suicide awareness training, State Rep. Marlene Anielski is joint-sponsoring a measure to hold all public Ohio universities'standard of suicide prevention programs to one standard.

Legislative aide Hallie Stadvec said that Anielski's office surveyed all 141 public and private colleges in the state and found that while some schools are doing well, other schools' suicide prevention programs are severely lacking or non-existent.

"(This bill) is more to set a basis foundation for schools who haven't had anything," Stadvec said.

The bill would require schools to meet five criteria. Because every school has different capabilities and needs, schools would have three options, established by the Board of Regents and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, to meet each criteria.

  1. Crisis intervention access: Schools should provide the numbers of national, state and local suicide hotlines.
  2. Mental health program access: Schools should provide information on various local mental health clinics and student health services.
  3. Multimedia application access: Schools should should provide hotline contact information, warning signs and symptoms on smartphones.
  4. Student communication plan: Schools must have a plan on how to communicate suicide prevention information to students.
  5. Post-mention plan: In the event that a student or faculty member takes his or her own life, schools should have a strategy to communicate that information to the university community.

At The University of Rio Grande, making sure students have access to mental health services is a priority. According to Marlene Childers, the director of health services, four individuals at the university's health services program have been through crisis intervention therapy training. The campus police officers have also been through CIT training and are available outside of business hours.

Health services also makes sure that students know of their services by giving gift baskets when they arrive on campus in the fall and by mandating that all residential students attend a talk about health services and suicide.

Childers said that after the death of actor Robin Williams, "there's a lot of awareness with mental health, more so than ever before."

"In the past we have had some students who have had suicidal thoughts or ideations," Childers said. "Nobody has ever carried them out. Students are really good about reporting."

Stadvec said that Anielski knows that college can be a tumultuous time for students, who are often away from their family and friends for their first time. Anielski wants students to know where to turn should they need assistance. She lost her son to suicide in 2010.