CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University has been awarded a federal suicide prevention grant that will be used to strengthen the referral and provider network serving students on campus and in the community.
The federal grant, available Oct. 1, is for $306,000, said Dhrubodhi Mukherjee, an associate professor in the SIU School of Social Work and the undergraduate program director, who oversaw the application process.
Mukherjee said that he hopes by strengthening the provider network, SIU sends the message that “it’s OK for students to talk about mental health without being stigmatized about it.”
“This is life. This is normal,” Mukherjee said of the range of emotions people can feel in response to different traumatic or difficult situations. “You’re not an outsider and you should not feel embarrassed for feeling the way you do. It’s very normal to feel the way you do.
That’s the kind of environment we can create,” he said. "It’s very effective for suicide alleviation without making it a mental health crisis.”
Mukherjee said it’s about addressing suicidal thoughts and actions from a trauma-informed perspective.
The federal grant proposal’s abstract states that at SIU, there are suicide prevention and mental health awareness initiatives in place but they are not well-linked in a referral network.
“Students, during behavior health crisis, often seek out services from the providers in the community that the university-based providers either do not get to know or get to know at a much slower pace,” it reads.
The abstract continues by explaining that the diversification of the student population, with increasing numbers of veterans and students with LGBTQ sexual orientation, for example, the suicide prevention network infrastructure needs to adapt to changing needs, Mukherjee said.
“The proposed approach relies on the tenet that it takes a village to create a zero suicide culture in college campuses,” the abstract reads. “And by ‘village’ it signifies a more cogent and effective university-community partnership.”
The grant will be housed in the School of Social Work but amount to a partnership with various other on- and off-campus resources, Mukherjee said.
The grant lays out four major goals, which are:
• To establish a protocol to facilitate university-community partnership and collaboration on suicide prevention.
• To provide faculty, staff and students with resources to become emergent gatekeepers of suicide prevention.
• To provide an easily accessible one-stop information warehouse of campus suicide prevention resources.
• To promote national suicide hotline number on campus.