Wayne State has been awarded a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services worth over $300,000 to aid the efforts of campus suicide prevention and to provide help to marginalized and vulnerable students.
According to WSU’s website, the grant, titled the Garret Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Initiative, “seeks to develop an infrastructure of education, training and dissemination of suicide prevention information to faculty, staff, students and their families.”
The initial amount of the grant was $305,354. WSU, along with the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, pitched in funds to bring the total up to over $600,000. It will begin to take effect and be available for use during the 2017-2018 school year.
The money will be available to, among other things, hire a full-time suicide counselor and prevention coordinator for the university, as well as creating seminars, outreach programs, faculty training initiatives and community education events.
The grant proposal was a collaboration between WSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), College of Nursing, Campus Health Center and School of Social Work.
“WSU plans to create an environment in which mental health issues are not stigmatized, seeking help is encouraged and seen as a strength, and members of the campus community step in to prevent harm to each other,” said Jeffrey Kuentzel, director of CAPS. “As of right now, most of the uses for the grant are mostly ideas, but the few that we want to put into effect right away are very solid. We are extremely grateful to have received [the grant], and it will be put to excellent and very important use.”
Kuentzel also said to eliminate the stigma of mental health issues relating and often leading to suicide on WSU’s campus, the grant would help to ”initiate development of collaborative networks, innovative marketing campaigns, evidence-based gatekeeper training programs and culturally appropriate educational programs.”
WSU’s Department of Psychology, Dean of Students Office and the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement will also be key in facilitating those efforts.
“We were informed about the grant because OMSE is most likely going to be involved in coordinating some of those events,” said student Hussein Charara, who works with the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement.
Jessica Alline, a member of the campus LGBTQ student organization JIGSAW, said when she researched the grant, she was most excited about the fact that it would partially focus on LGBTQ youth as a marginalized and vulnerable group.
“Choosing to follow your heart and become who you are is not a mental illness, but a lot of young LGBTQ people who face discrimination, lack of support and other horrible situations also do so while struggling with things like depression and anxiety,” said Alline.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBTQ youth, with this group making up 30 percent of all suicides ranging from ages 13 to 25.
WSU has a scholarship that is designated to specifically aid LGTBQ students get accepted into the college. The Michael P. LaGatella Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Endowed Scholarship was created as a memorial back in 1992 after LaGatella, who was a student at the time, committed suicide. It was the first of its kind in Michigan and has aided nine students since its inception.
Aside from that scholarship and general counseling available from CAPS and JIGSAW, no other program at WSU has specifically targeted the issue of LGTBQ students struggling with mental health and suicide prevention after admittance.
“There is no denying that this grant will be inadvertently helping LGTBQ people at a higher rate than some others,” said Alline, “and I’m excited for that, if nothing else.”
Free, confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or through the Crisis Text Line at 741741.