Albany State University

Program Name:  We Are One- Albany State University
Grant Type:  HBCU
Grant Status:  Alumni
Year Awarded:  2013
State:  Georgia

The We Are One- Albany State University project seeks to develop a multi-disciplinary team of students, peer educators, faculty, staff, administrators and community partners to develop the infrastructure designed to assist the Albany State University (ASU) community to prevent suicide attempts and completions and to enhance services for students with mental and behavioral health problems, such as depression and substance use/abuse that place them at risk for suicide and suicide attempts.

The growing mental health needs of students in institutions of higher education have captured the attention of researchers, college administrators and policy makers. The challenge confronting colleges and universities is clear from the summary of the results of the 2011 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors which reported 87 student suicides in the past year. 20% of these were current or former center clients, 73% were males, 80% were undergraduates and only 21% of the suicides occurred on or near campus. 86% were Caucasian, 7% were Asian or Pacific Islanders and 3% were African American. To the extent that it was known, 80% of the students were depressed, 46% had relationship problems, 17% had academic problems, 13% were on psychiatric medication, and 15% were known to have had previous psychiatric hospitalizations (Gallagher, 2012).

The present proposal primarily addresses the suicide prevention needs among African American youth. The African American Suicide Fact Sheet from the American Association of Suicidology (2013) reported that in 2010, there were 2144 completed suicides among African Americans in the U.S. Of these, 82% were male (rate of 9.1/100,000) compared to 1.8/100,000 for females. The same fact sheet also reported that while comparing gender and racial groups, African American females were more likely to attempt suicide and also were more likely to die by suicide. Further they reported that suicide was the third leading cause of death among African Americans. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center ({SPRC}, 2007) fact sheet on suicide among Black Americans reported that: "the rate of mental illness among African Americans is similar to that of Caucasians. However, there is evidence to suggest that higher rates of mental illness among African-Americans might be detected if researchers surveyed individuals within psychiatric hospitals, prisons and poor rural communities."

A major mental health issue is that most African Americans do not receive treatment for major depressive disorders. It is estimated that less than half of African Americans and less than a quarter of Caribbean Black Americans with severe depressive symptoms received treatment. It is also documented that African Americans who received treatment get poor quality care compared to white Americans (Williams et al., 2007). Access to quality mental health treatment, stigma associated with seeking care, and other cultural myths are some of the barriers in addressing mental health care among African Americans. Young males (ages 20-24) had the highest rate of suicide in the African American population, 16.03 per 100,000. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for African Americans aged 15-24, with a rate of 11.60 per 100,000 (SPRC, 2011). Substance use, especially among this age group, is also an added risk factor for suicide. There is a dearth of research on the mental health issues among African American college students, especially in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Myths, stigma, and cultural factors prevail in the African American community so mental health issues often are not a priority at HBCUs.