Boston University: Revealing Secrets Can Help Students
By Kristin Blank
Dr. Hutchinson and her team are working on multiple fronts to help BU students in distress. Knowing that most students in distress turn to friends rather than adults, the team used SAMHSA grant funds to start a training program called the Student Support Network.
In a program originally conceived by SAMHSA grantee Worcester Polytechnic Institute, students are trained to recognize signs of distress in other students. “Students learn to discern the difference between someone who’s having some troubles and someone who’s in imminent danger of hurting themselves and refer them to immediate help,” said Mr. Kohn.
In spring 2010, BU trained 30 students, and in fall 2010, an additional 45 students were trained. The goal for spring 2011 is to train nearly 60 students. “This is not a peer counseling training,” Mr. Kohn emphasized. “Students take the skills they learn out into their normal, daily interactions, which strengthen the culture of caring people on campus.”
BU recruits students from campus populations that are at higher risk for displaying signs of distress, said Dr. Hutchinson. Groups include international students (BU has the largest international student population of any university in the United States); gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students; student athletes; and those who participate in Greek life.
SAMHSA grant funds have also made possible two national depression screening days. The first year, BU screened 65 students; the second year, that number quadrupled to 233.
“Every person gets 3 to 5 minutes afterwards to talk privately, whether or not their screen showed they needed to be referred for treatment,” said Mr. Kohn. “We ask if there was something that made them come in or if they wanted to talk about anything specific.”
At both events, 30 percent of those screened were referred for further treatment. “And in the first year, we actually hospitalized someone who was experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Dr. Hutchinson said. “That makes all of our efforts worth it.”
Learn more about mental health resources at Boston University by visiting http://www.bu.edu/mentalhealth. Find out more about SAMHSA’s suicide prevention activities by visiting http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention.