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September 17, 2009

ULM awarded nearly $100,000 for suicide prevention/education

The director of Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Louisiana at Monroe recently received notification of nearly $100,000 in federal grant funding for a project titled, “ULM Helping Educators and Learners Prevent Suicide.”

Dr. Jana P. Sutton, principal investigator and clinical supervisor of the project, said the goal is to educate the campus family on how to identify those at greater risk for suicide, and those with mental or behavioral health problems. Ultimately, once identified, the goal would be to prevent death by suicide and to provide at-risk students with the clinical treatment that they need, said Sutton.

The grant targets college-aged students who are facing challenges and developmental issues specific to their age group. In the college-age ranges, Louisiana rates are higher than the national averages, being 9.3 as compared with 7.8 per 100,000 nationally (ages 15-19) and 15.1 as compared with 12.3 per 100,000 nationally (ages 20-29).

“Being able to decipher who is depressed and suicidal may be quite difficult for a professional, never mind a layperson,” said Sutton.

Ultimately, the project would educate students, faculty and staff, such as police officers, about when and how to identify and refer at-risk students to available programs and services for help, she said.

“Students can have fabulous relationships with one another and therefore can be influential in helping someone to get the help he or she needs,” said Sutton.] The funding will provide the opportunity for professional development seminars, as well a develop literature about the risks for suicide and how to promote “help-seeking” behavior. Educational workshops directed at incoming freshmen and their families, as well as workshops targeting the ULM student body at large will also be created, according to Sutton.

The $99,995 award is for a one-year period and begins Sept. 30, with the option to extend funding for another two years if approved.

The initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership that will include collaboration with Dr. Lamar Woodham of Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Syeda Jasmine, Gerontology Professor Chris Johnson and Staff Counselor Steve Kelly in the ULM Counseling Center.

“I think reaching across the disciplines helped us as we created this all-encompassing program,” said Sutton. “We started by just looking at what needed to be built from scratch and how we could enhance what already existed in order to maximize the grant.”

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