University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras

Program Name:  University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras
Grant Type:  Hispanic Serving Institution
Grant Status:  Alumni
Year Awarded:  2011
State:  Puerto Rico

The University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras Campus UPR-RP Suicide Prevention Program objectives are to: implement campus-wide protocols; train gatekeepers; systematically collect mental health data; develop a bilingual website with informational materials; network with suicide reduction partners on and off campus; promote Suicide Prevention Lifelines; increase awareness of suicidal risk factors and behaviors; and reduce stigma. The UPR-RP, located in the metropolitan area of San Juan, is the largest institution of higher education in Puerto Rico with 18,966 undergraduate and graduate students. Fall 2009 data shows a typical 99.7% of students are Hispanic, and on average half of all students receive financial aid each academic year. Suicide is the third leading cause of violent death for youth between 15 and 24 years of age in Puerto Rico. Studies have shown that approximately 20% of incoming freshmen at the UPR-RP report symptoms of depression and as many as 11% have had suicidal thoughts, making the need for a suicide prevention program at UPR-RP critical. The goal of the program is to develop an institutional, environmental, and individual comprehensive prevention strategy that will mitigate the risk of student suicide by addressing infrastructure, capacity building, awareness, and case management development. At the institutional level, the program targets changes in university policy through the establishment of a Crisis Response Protocol and a Suicide Prevention Plan. The environmental level will focus on capacity building and promoting awareness among 226 identified gatekeepers and personnel who provide mental health and counseling services to students. Direct service personnel training will cover effective assessment, referrals, and treatment delivery according to the suicide risks presented. Workshops for personnel will include the identification of early signs and symptoms associated with suicidal behavior, management of an emotional crisis, and appropriate referral practices. The program will target all university students with the creation and dissemination of informational materials, an informative webpage, and promotional campaigns. The individual level intervention will be directed toward the development of a standardized and empirically informed case management protocol, including assessment and basic guidelines for treatment through the counseling, psychological, and medical services available on campus. Expected measureable outcomes are the creation, implementation and dissemination of a suicide prevention university policy; increased networking among stakeholders on and off campus; increased identification and referrals of high-risk students; increased help-seeking behavior; and improved assessment and treatment procedures at counseling, psychological, and health service units. In terms of direct counseling services, the program expects to serve an average of 1,200 students annually (3,600 over three years) and to promote awareness among 2,800 students at freshmen orientation, 789 students in dorms, 300 student athletes, and 50 peer counselors.