By Sumaiya Nasir | October 4, 2021
The university department for student well-being has introduced a self-paced course designed for students and staff members to learn how to recognize and help students showing signs of distress and inform them of the resources available on campus.
The training course is part of a larger program titled Save-A-Life, and can be accessed at the university’s website under Counseling and Psychological Services and Suicide Prevention.
The training course was originally launched in Fall 2020 but was updated over the summer and relaunched in Aug. 2021. Training can be completed in under one hour or in parts and resumed at a later time. There are a total of four video modules to be completed in the training, each ranging from six to 12 minutes, and cover different areas of suicide prevention awareness, including myths surrounding suicide, mental health concerns at UAlbany, warning signs for suicide, and resources available to students experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“As campus community members, we play a very important role in supporting the health and well-being of others at the university,” said “Save-a-Life” Project Coordinator Eric Tifft. “Not surprisingly, data indicates that students who were able to access professional help in a timely manner… were better able to manage stress in their lives and do better in school.”
Often, students who receive professional help have initially been referred by someone they know such as a faculty member, staff member, or fellow student.
“This is why the training is so important,” said Tifft.
In a well-being survey taken from the previous year, approximately 57% to 58% of undergraduate and graduate students, which translates to 7,500 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students, said they felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 88% to 89% of students said they felt worthless. That’s 12,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 graduate students. About 12% of these students considered suicide, and 1% reported that they had attempted suicide in the last 12 months, amounting to a couple 100 students.
The course begins with an optional pre-training survey that has students answer a series of demographic questions, as well as true or false statements surrounding myths about suicide and a section where students and faculty can determine on a scale of zero to 100 how comfortable they feel interacting with and helping distressed students.
The first module addresses and debunks myths surrounding suicide and suicidal thoughts, including stigmas surrounding suicide and mental disorders and encourages students and faculty to reach out to peers who may be in distress. Talking about mental health reduces the risk factor for suicide, after all.
Module two is the longest video in the training and addresses how to identify risk factors among suicidal students. These signs include violent speech or actions, the development of depression or other mood disorders, changes in appetite, sleep, and energy levels.
Module three lists resources provided by the university that students can use in both crisis and non-crisis situations, including University Police Department, CAPS, Middle Earth Peer Assistance hotline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Crisis Text Line.
Module four finishes the training with scripted examples of how to speak to a distressed student, and what resources can be suggested to them. The training course ends with an optional questionnaire in which students can use their newfound knowledge to answer similar questions to those in the beginning of the training.
The program was developed by the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research and Counseling and Psychological Services with grant funding support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
If you or someone else you know is considering suicide, consult with a mental health professional at CAPS at (518) 442-5800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.