In 2017, a National College Health Assessment survey received 579 responses from UAB students. Of the those surveyed, 50.3 percent reported feeling hopeless at some point within the last year, and 10.4 percent reported seriously considering suicide at some point within the last year. 

As a result, UAB began to actively respond. The UAB Suicide Prevention and Awareness Leadership and Implementation Team was created to respond to the serious evidence of need on UAB’s campus.

The mission of the group is to “take our efforts enterprise-wide to support all students, faculty, and staff, so that no matter who you are, you know you are part of the Blazer family and that there is support for you if you are feeling hopeless,” said Angela Stowe, Ph.D., director of Student Counseling Services and Wellness Promotion. “We want everyone to know that they matter, that UAB cares, and that we have resources available to help them find hope.” 

Beginning as a campus-wide task force, the group was asked to create recommendations for suicide education, prevention, intervention, follow-up, response and postvention* plans for the UAB community. They audited campus-wide programs, services, initiatives and efforts that support suicide prevention as well as utilized the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention Framework to create work areas. The task force then researched the strategies that other institutions have used to support mental health on their campuses. They also conducted focus groups and surveys to pinpoint the overall campus perception of mental health needs and services. 

Based on their work, recommendations were made in three categories: prevention and awareness, education and policy, procedures and services. The first two categories aim to increase help-seeking, reduce access to means, promote social connectedness and support, identify and assist persons at risk and enhance resilience. The goal of the third category is to help UAB with crisis response and intervention, immediate and long term postvention and to support effective care, self-care and treatment access.

 

Here are some of the specific recommendations made by the task force:

  • Partner with the national Crisis Text Line so that students can text “UAB” to 74174 for help
  • Collaborate with the Birmingham Crisis Center on a 24-hour UAB-dedicated phone line.
  • Purchase Kognito-at-Risk, an online training program that teaches students, faculty and staff about mental health and suicide awareness, and shows them how to identify warning signs and communicate with students in distress
  • Expansion of the Blazers Bounce Back resiliency initiative
  • Review of the staff needs in Student Counseling Services
  • Review and update policy and procedures to support suicide prevention, response and intervention
  • Establish role clarification to help UAB’s crisis response efforts
  • Continue care from campus to the hospital

 

Five members of the Leadership and Implementation Team will be attending the Alabama Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference in Montgomery, Alabama on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. For a glimpse of what is to come and to share feedback on UAB’s mental health resources, check out some of the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week events


*Postvention is an intervention that takes place after a suicide occurs, mainly involving the support of the family, peers and professionals who loved the victim.