University of Denver

Program Name:  The University of Denver (DU) Suicide Prevention Project
Grant Type:  Campus
Grant Status:  Active
Year Awarded:  2015
State:  Colorado

The University of Denver (DU) Suicide Prevention Project aims to prevent suicide attempts and deaths among DU students by increasing system capacity to support inclusive and comprehensive mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services. This will occur through policy development; training activities for students, families, faculty, and staff; provision of educational programs and materials; and tactics to enhance student connectedness.

The DU Suicide Prevention Project will target all members of the DU student community. Located a few miles south of downtown Denver, DU serves over 11,800 students. DU students represent 46 states and 87 countries, with 37% of the student body coming from Colorado. The racial and ethnic diversity of DU’s student body indicates a significant presence of distinct cultural backgrounds and needs; 10% of the DU student population are international students, 2% are Black or African American, <1% are American Indian or Alaska Native, 9% are Latino/as, and 3% are Asian. Additionally, the student community maintains significant populations of high-risk groups, including those that have been identified by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. DU’s National College Health Assessment data reveals that DU students experience an array of mental health concerns, with 7% of students indicating that they had seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. Moreover, as an institution of higher education located in Colorado, with a significant student population of in-state residents, suicide-related patterns among DU students likely mirror those seen at the state level; suicide rates among college-aged individuals in the state of Colorado are higher than those seen nationally.

The DU Suicide Prevention project seeks to enhance the capacity of current support networks and to ultimately produce a campus community that is prepared to respond to students in crisis and act proactively to address the mental health needs of all represented populations. Specific programs goals are to 1) establish consistent use of comprehensive crisis management procedures on campus; 2) eliminate service gaps for identified high-risk groups; 3) increase help-seeking behaviors among students in need of services; 4) increase the ability of the campus community to identify and support at-risk students; and 5) promote student connectedness to each other and to the University. These goals will be accomplished via efforts to 1) convene an interdisciplinary Mental Health Task Force that includes faculty, staff, administrators, students, and local health agencies; 2) assess the mental health needs of identified high-risk groups; 3) review, update, and disseminate comprehensive crisis protocols; 4) incorporate processes to enable early identification and support for incoming students with existing mental health needs; 5) implement gatekeeper training for students, faculty, staff, and families; 6) implement programs and campaigns to enhance student connectedness and reduce stigma related to help-seeking; and 7) develop and offer life skills curriculum.