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STARKVILLE, Miss.–To ensure any individual considering suicide receives the services, support and compassion needed to overcome that feeling, Mississippi State University is managing a new multi-faceted awareness initiative.

The three-year, $304,000 Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will support:

–Training programs to identify individuals at risk.

–Streamlined campus-wide mental health services to promote better mental health.

–Outreach activities, including public seminars focused on suicide prevention.

–Development and implementation of evidence-based best practices.

–A new MSU psychology course providing instruction on the predictors of suicidal behavior and appropriate treatments.

MSU’s psychology department, the health education and wellness department, Student Counseling Services and Longest Student Health Center are collaborating to implement the grant.

Altogether, 1,000 faculty, staff and local community members will be trained how to identify students potentially at risk, said Michael Nadorff, assistant professor of psychology and project director.

“There’s not much awareness that suicides are more common than auto accidents and occur at twice the rate of homicides,” Nadorff said. “It’s the third leading cause of death for college-age individuals, so suicide is a serious issue.

“We want the community to realize this is an issue, and we need their help,” he said.

Because suicide is a public health issue, public education about the warning signs and help services available is essential, said Leah Pylate, assistant director of health education and wellness, and sexual assault.

“We’re going to be working with clinical services, counseling services, student groups, and different populations on campus to identify students and help them find the resources available,” she said. “We want the people who are having these thoughts to know we’re here.

“Deaths can be prevented through education, awareness and increasing services to students.”

Pylate said the Student Counseling Services office at 115C Hathorn Residence Hall is the starting point, though specialized services can be made immediately available, when necessary.

As part of the grant, Nadorff said free seminars led by suicide-prevention specialists will be open to the general public.

“It’s not limited to campus because we know a lot of things happen off campus and a lot of students live off campus,” he said. “That’s a big part of why we’re bringing in the experts and asking for the public’s help.”

Also, a new psychology course will be taught both in person and online by Nadorff. The class will be offered for the first time during the 2014 summer term. Upper-level undergraduates or graduate students planning careers as mental health professionals — or who are interested in suicide prevention — should sign up.

Because fewer than 10 courses like this are in place nationwide, the course is being provided online so as many people as possible may participate, Nadorff said.

In addition to the partners previously mentioned, key MSU faculty and administrators whose support and work led to the grant include Mitchell Berman, MSU psychology department head; Thomas Bourgeois, dean of students; Greg Dunaway, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Kim Kavalsky, coordinator of mental health outreach; Leigh Jenson, student counseling director; Ken McRae, director of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans; Peter Ryan, associate provost for academic affairs; Cliff Story, executive director of the health center; E. Samuel Winer, assistant professor of psychology; and Joyce Yates, director of health education and wellness.

Questions about the campus suicide prevention course or training services should be directed to Nadorff at 662-325-1222 or mn487@msstate.edu.

Also, help for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts is immediately available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). The lines are open all day, every day.

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