17:05 PM

Suicide prevention conference at Ohio State offers ideas and support for Ohio schools

A daylong conference on suicide prevention offered an opportunity for schools across the state to learn more about one of the leading causes of student deaths.

On Friday, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Nationwide Children’s Hospital hosted the fifth annual suicide prevention conference, “Suicide Prevention at Ohio Schools and Campuses,” at the Ohio Union. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students in the United States.

Senior Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston and Interim Chair of the Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Eileen Ryan discussed the university’s response to campus suicide. As co-chairs of the Suicide and Mental Health Task Force, Adams-Gaston and Ryan presented the findings and conclusions of the group’s newly released report and recommendations.

Adams-Gaston said the mental health and well-being of students is tied to their ability to succeed in the classroom.

“As you can imagine when we are thinking about mental health we are also thinking about the academic success of our students. We know that the students suffering from mental health issues are at risk for not being able to be academically successful,” she said. “We want to be sure as an institution, we are addressing those things.”

President Michael V. Drake commissioned the task force in response to important dialogue on campus that took place last spring about Ohio State’s suicide prevention efforts and mental health services.

Addressing the conference attendees, Drake said everyone on campus, from students to faculty and staff, has a role to play.

As you can imagine when we are thinking about mental health we are also thinking about the academic success of our students. 
Javaune Adams-Gaston, Senior Vice President for Student Life

“Our job every day is to think of those things we can do to help reduce the suicide rate to as low a rate as possible,” he said. “The best way we can do that is by the collective wisdom of all the people that we have here and reaching out together to try and make sure that we make our environment the safest it can be.”

The report recommended continuing to build a “culture of care” on campus that finds ways to minimize psychological harm to students and encourages students, faculty and staff to look out for one another.

“We thought long and hard about the ‘culture of care’ recommendation,” Ryan said. “This is an area where it’s really important to meet people where they are, and this was of critical importance to the students.”

The report also calls for mental health and suicide screening protocols to be evaluated and used across the university to better guide students to appropriate services and enhance current counseling and support services.

Other recommendations included using apps or other digital resources to connect students to mental health services or support; promoting mental health services in a clear and concise way; and implementing a continuous review of the physical campus to identify vulnerabilities with respect to methods of suicide.

Nicole Collier, a current athletic training major, spoke to the audience about her battles with suicidal thoughts and her journey to recovery. She said she was encouraged by the university’s commitment to addressing this challenging issue.

“When people look at the psychiatric health care issues in this country they say it is a problem that cannot be solved,” Collier said. “Today, I learned Ohio State doesn’t care what other people say. They’re making steps to fix the things that other people say cannot be fixed.”