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Published January 30, 2008
Sobering facts: An average of one suicide is committed in Wyoming every four days,
and suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. What happens
when a suicide is committed on a college campus, how do school officials handle the
David Cozzens, University of Wyoming associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, says that some colleges may not yet have experienced the devastation of a suicide on campus or among the school's student population. He adds that school officials may not be quite sure how to best deal with the issue.
To help answer those key questions, Cozzens and his University Counseling Center staff will host a first-ever statewide campus suicide prevention conference Friday, Feb.8, in the Strausner Student Center at Casper College.
Representatives from the Wyoming community colleges will attend the Wyoming Campus Suicide Prevention Summit scheduled from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Invitations also have been extended to officials from WyoTech in Laramie and the Tribal College on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
"This summit will be an opportunity to talk with other Wyoming colleges about these issues and learn more about the model that UW is taking to address campus suicide prevention," says Lena Edmunds, UW Alcohol Wellness Alternatives, Research, and Education (AWARE) Program coordinator. She and Cozzens presented the same topic at a recent national conference in Tampa. Fla. "The summit also will help representatives to become trained as ‘gatekeepers,' do some strategic planning to address the mental health needs of college students and to learn more about funding available through the state of Wyoming specific to campus suicide prevention."
In 2006, the University Counseling Center received a campus suicide prevention grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant provides $75,000 per year for three years to enhance services for college students with mental and behavioral health problems, such as depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts.
The project offers three initiatives to decrease the number of suicides on campus: A campus-community coalition; outreach to the general student body, including a social marketing media campaign; and training individuals to recognize signs of depression and to make referrals through its "Gatekeepers Training" program.
Cozzens, the grant's project director, says that suicide is an important topic because Wyoming ranks fifth in the nation with a rate of 21.8 per suicides per 100,000 population, nearly double the national rate of 10.82.
"This is not surprising, considering that suicide death rates are higher in rural areas compared to metropolitan areas," Edmunds says. "For example, rural males have twice the suicide rate of their urban counterparts and suicide rates for young women were 85 percent higher in rural areas."
Cozzens and Edmunds will give an overview of the UW suicide prevention model during the summit's opening session followed by a "Gatekeepers Training" session led by Brenda Tracy and Jodi Bills from the University Counseling Center.
Keith Hotle, Wyoming Department of Health suicide prevention program manager, will discuss suicide prevention programs at the state level and funding opportunities.
For more information about the suicide prevention summit, call the University Counseling Center at (307) 766-2187.