Campus Life

New efforts to assist with suicide prevention at UWF

The University of West Florida has been awarded a Campus Suicide Prevention grant under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. UWF is expected to receive up to $306,000 over the next three years, with a first year award amount of $100,330, to be used toward education and training to students, faculty and staff on mental health promotion and suicide prevention.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and this funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), is part of a $6.2 million national initiative to assist colleges in their efforts to educate about suicide prevention and enhance mental health services for students in crisis. UWF was one of 16 institutions to receive a grant from this initiative.

Susan Walch, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences (SPBS), April Glenn, Ed.D., a therapist at Counseling and Wellness Services (CWS) and Rebecca Kennedy, Ph.D., director of Health and Counseling Services, developed the project called Suicide Outreach and Support (SOS).

“The goal is to reach as many people on our campus community as possible, but the SOS project will also place special emphasis on reaching gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) students, as well as military-affiliated students, including active duty service members, veterans and military dependants,” said Glenn. “The training we provide will teach skills to help identify if someone is at risk of committing suicide and how to intervene.”

Walch, Glenn and Kennedy developed four components to effectively reach different audiences. Question, persuade and refer (QPR) training will be available to everyone in order to provide the necessary skills to recognize suicide warning signs and respond effectively to them. Training sessions will be offered on campus, and will be available online as well. A Suicide Prevention Coalition comprised of faculty and staff, as well as some community members, will assist in coordination, design and review of policies and procedures related to suicide prevention and crisis response.

A social marketing campaign will take place on campus to increase student’s knowledge and awareness of suicide warning signs and risk factors through educational materials, such as posters, flyers, pamphlets and wallet cards. In addition, a UWF student organization network has been formed among the Students for Suicide Awareness (SSA), To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) to assist CWS in providing educational activities aimed at decreasing stigma associated with mental illness and encouraging people to seek help.

“In counseling services, our hearts are often touched by those struggling with stress, depression and other concerns,” said Kennedy. “We are excited to offer these preventative services to our campus community. The program will literally save lives.”

CWS offers a wide variety of confidential services to faculty, staff and students. For a list of services or more information, visit or call 850-474-2420.