Ohio University Rolls out New Suicide Prevention Program

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A new suicide prevention program at Ohio University aims at training students, faculty and staff to recognize and respond to a peer who may be suicidal. 
Counseling and Psychological Services rolled out Bobcats Who Care this summer. The three-hour training teaches individuals to identify those who are at risk and to talk to them in a comfortable and confident manner while also referring them to an appropriate professional. Upon completion of the program, each "bobcat who cares" receives a certificate that if desired can be publically displayed so that others know to seek help from him or her. 
The program is based off Campus Connect, a gatekeeper program that was founded at Syracuse University. Last December, the founder of that program came to OU to train the Bobcats Who Care core trainers, who can now train others and include representatives from campus police, the athletics department, Campus Care and more. 
CPS psychologist Krystal Hernandez said that the program was designed to respond to an apparent sense that OU students are in distress. A student suicide has occured at OU in 2010, 2012 and 2013. 
"Regardless of whether a student has gone through Bobcats Who Care training, the general trend is that if a student is in distress, they're more likley to go to their peers than to other professionals," she said. "So one of the statistics that we were dealing with in developing this program is that the large majority of individuals who die by suicide are actually unknown to mental health professionals." 
Bobcats Who Care is aiming to expand with the help of promotional materials like stickers or buttons and social media. 
Recently, State Rep. Marlene Anielski is joint-sponsoring a bill to standardize suicide prevention programs at Ohio universities. Hernandez says that she is optimistic that OU can meet, if they haven't already met, the program requirements outlined by that bill.