As suicide rises to the second-leading cause of death among the 10-24 age population in West Virginia, a new state law is requiring middle schools, high schools and universities to offer suicide awareness and prevention programs to their students, faculty and staff.
Jamie’s Law – which was unanimously adopted by state legislators in March – was named for Jamie Toman, who died as a result of suicide 21 years ago in Ritchie County. Jamie’s sister, Michelle, has devoted her life’s work to leading the charge for suicide awareness to prevent other families from experiencing the pain her family felt as a result of suicide and to reduce the rate of suicide statewide.
The law mandates that University and college leaders implement policies to advise students of available programs both on and off campus regarding depression and suicide. Incoming West Virginia University students will be provided with these resources as they begin their college careers.
The WVU Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services – a unit of WELLWVU – is in the process of implementing a comprehensive communication and outreach plan to equip students with the necessary resources and support to cope with depression.
Cathy Yura, assistant vice president for student wellness, said WVU is well-positioned to comply with Jamie’s Law, largely thanks to the receipt of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services grant in 2013.
“Our grant is housed in the WELLWVU Carruth Center; it is called the HelpWELL program,” she said. “The program goals align closely with initiatives set forth in Jamie’s Law; many of these resources are available to students, staff and faculty right now.”
Yura said that some of the goals of HelpWELL include increasing collaboration among campus and community partners in regards to suicide prevention efforts. They also aim to increase the amount of suicide and mental health promotion training and informational materials available to faculty and staff who are positioned to interact with high-risk students.
“We will also be developing and implementing a comprehensive social marketing campaign to increase help-seeking among students, reduce negative attitudes for seeking care and increasing the promotion of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” said Yura.
In addition to these efforts, Yura and the WELLWVU team will be working throughout the fall 2015 semester to implement Jamie’s Law and to increase campus-wide outreach efforts and awareness regarding suicide prevention.
“We are proud to provide these tools to our WVU community and we hope that others will adopt the mindset that even one death by suicide is one too many,” Yura said.
An online training module is available to help educate WVU faculty and staff about the importance of Jamie’s Law and suicide prevention support. The module is a 30-minute interactive role-playing game in which participants learn to recognize signs of distress, practice having conversations with students of concern and how to direct those students to the appropriate campus resources.
Faculty and staff are advised to access the training module and create an account following these instructions:
• Visit https://www.kognitocampus.com/login/?pb=k.
• Select “Create a New Account”
• Use proper enrollment key:
o Staff & Faculty: wvu664.
o Students: wvu833.
• Follow the on-screen instructions.
Students who feel depressed and/or are having thoughts of suicide are encouraged to talk to someone and seek support, whether on-campus through the Carruth Center or via one of the national suicide hotlines:
• Carruth After Hours: 304.293.4431; call any time to reach a counselor.
• National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255).
• Military Veterans Suicide Hotline: 1.800.273.TALK (Press 1).
• Trevor Project Hotline (LGBTQ): 1.866.4UTREVOR (1.866.488.7386).
CONTACT: Cathy Yura; Student Wellness
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