Bluefield State College

Program Name:  Community-Based Partnership for Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program
Grant Type:  Campus
Grant Status:  Active
Year Awarded:  2016
State:  West Virginia

The “Bluefield State College (BSC) Student-Led, Community-Based Partnership for Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program” grant proposal will serve a quarter million residents in the southern region of the state of West Virginia, including BSC students and staff, the City of Bluefield and the surrounding counties of Mercer, McDowell, Raleigh and Kanawha.  This program’s aim is to prevent suicide in southern West Virginia through education and community activism.  BSC’s suicide prevention program will use Student Peer Leaders (SPEs) and a Community Outreach Educator (COE) to head its program.  BSC will also partner with Respect and Care (ResCare), a private healthcare agency, for educational support, referral services and to provide summer internships in healthcare education for BSC students.  Program activities will be open to all BSC students, staff and area residents and will include an annual, one-day suicide prevention awareness fair; educational seminars; the reinstatement of a web page on BSC’s website devoted to suicide prevention that will link to national and local life-response agencies and telephone hotlines; educational brochures that will be distributed to students and area residents; and on-campus counseling services for BSC students.  West Virginia ranks among the top ten states for suicide incidence. Its population of veterans represents only nine percent of the nation’s veterans, but in recent years, veterans made up 23 percent of West Virginia’s suicides.  Studies have also revealed that suicide is the third leading cause of death among those aged 1524.  With veterans accounting for six percent of BSC’s student population and a majority of BSC’s 1,441 students under the age of 30, suicide awareness, prevention and intervention services, under the auspices of BSC, will not only provide a forum for suicide prevention discussion among the college's student body and personnel, but will also provide a regional support network to area residents who are the family members, friends and neighbors of BSC students and personnel.  High risk factors for suicide, such as illicit drug use and depression, are well-known problems in West Virginia, which also has higher than national averages for poverty, education, income and unemployment.  In 2013, the national poverty rate was 15.4 percent; the high school graduation rate was 86 percent; the number of Americans with bachelor’s degrees was 28.8 percent; and the median household income was $53,046.  Respectively, West Virginia’s poverty rate was 17.9 percent; the high school graduation rate was 83.9 percent; West Virginians with a bachelor’s degree stood at 18.3 percent; and the median household income was $41,043. In 2015, we find the nation’s unemployment rate at 5.5 percent while West Virginia’s is 6.1.  In all socio-economic indicators, West Virginia lags behind national averages. The geographical constraints of the “Mountain State,” which exacerbate health disparities through extreme isolation and transportation problems, compounds to underscore the hardness of life often found in West Virginia and the need for suicide prevention awareness through educational community outreach.