Officials reported two student suicide attempts so far this school year and said the figure demonstrates the University Counseling Center’s improved ability to monitor the mental health of students.
University officials said the UCC is now more efficient in addressing the needs of students, and therefore statistics regarding suicide attempts are more accurate than they have been in years past.
“We’re doing a better job keeping track of what’s going on,” said John Dages, the associate director of the UCC.
Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee Chair Cynthia Baker said at last month’s Board of Trustees meeting that eight to 10 students have attempted to commit suicide and that 35 students are on high-alert monitoring, a new function of the UCC. Dean of Students Linda Donnels said UCC statistics show only two students have attempted suicide this year, and that an average of eight to 16 students have attempted suicide in previous years.
“The University Counseling Center is an important resource for students who are having psychological emergencies or who need assistance, counseling or referrals for short term or on-going issues,” said Donnels, who is a non-voting member of the Student Affairs Committee, in an e-mail this week.
The mental health concerns that warrant high-alert monitoring are serious and varied. Problems most often involve alcohol, family, relationships or a history of depression, Dages said.
“We work with the dean of students, (the Community Living and Learning Center) and any other appropriate departments to monitor aspects of a student’s individual care when he or she is on high-alert monitoring,” Dages added.
Students are kept on high-alert monitoring as long as the UCC feels it is in their best interest to be monitored. Students are generally considered off high-alert monitoring when they comply with recommended treatment and recover, Dages said
“The University takes suicidal ideation seriously and supports the process of high-risk monitoring by working with the UCC to meet the mental health needs of the University population,” Dages said.
The UCC’s relationship with CLLC has been influential in the center’s recent improvement since community directors and community facilitators often act as the UCC’s first contact with students in need of mental or emotional assistance, Dages said.
“We are getting students in here and to the hospital when they need our help,” Dages said. “We err on the side of too cautious, and I am okay with that.”
Other factors related to the UCC’s improvements include the center’s enhanced Web site, increased collaborative contact with parents and reception of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Grant for Suicide Prevention.
“The University supports the counseling center and is active in its implementation of the grant,” Dages said.
GW is one of only 22 universities around the country to receive this three-year grant. It will not only be used to help the counseling center and its patients, but will be used in part to educate the GW community about suicide prevention and awareness.
“I would like to think that at the end of three years, we will have positive data showing GW is anticipating and meeting the mental health needs of its students,” Dages said.