Penn College Awarded Grant to Aid Suicide Prevention

Published 10.21.2015

Student News

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s new initiative to strengthen suicide-prevention efforts has received federal government support. The college has been awarded a SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Campus Suicide Prevention Grant.

Managed by the Center for Mental Health Services in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency, the three-year grant will help fund the Penn College SPIRIT (suicide prevention through information, referral, intervention and training) Project. The funding amount is $102,000 each year for a total of $306,000.

“Penn College is thrilled to be awarded this federal grant to continue the impactful work of promoting student mental health and preventing suicide,” said Kathy W. Zakarian, director of counseling and the SPIRIT Project. “It’s an honor to be receiving support for this vital program.

Suicide is a serious problem among college students. This is a great opportunity to promote mental health and expand our message of suicide prevention to the Penn College community.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults, ages 15-24.

The Penn College SPIRIT Project seeks to formalize suicide prevention resources, systemize training and education efforts, enhance screening of students, and increase the number of students accessing mental health and substance abuse services. Resources will be directed to all students, with particular emphasis on underserved or at-risk groups, such as the LGBT community, racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and veterans.

An advisory board, consisting of internal and external entities, will oversee the program, which began in late September.

“This grant will allow us to create a comprehensive, sustainable program. We hope to foster a campus climate of help-seeking and reporting,” Zakarian said. “Faculty, staff and students all have a role in preventing suicide and can make a difference by learning to recognize the warning signs of distress, developing knowledge of resources and encouraging students to seek help.”

On an annual basis, the college projects screening approximately 1,000 students, providing gatekeeper training to 200 students and personnel, reaching 1,500 parents, and increasing by 2 percent the number of students accessing counseling services on campus.

“By increasing the conversation about mental health issues that our students face, we hope to decrease stigma associated with depression, substance abuse and suicide,” Zakarian added.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

For more information about grant-funding opportunities, faculty and staff may contact Grants & Sponsored Programs at ext. 7580 or through its Web portal.