University students vote to support more mental health services

    If you or someone you know is in a crisis, contact the national suicide help line. The number is 1-800-273-8255.

    University of Iowa students are taking a stand in preventing college suicides.

    "I think it's 13.4 percent of University of Iowa students have thought about suicide and 4 percent have actually attempted," said Amber Crow, Co-Chair of University of Iowa Student Government Health and Safety. "We know that this is a growing issue on our campus."

    More than a thousand students have been using counseling services since the university first implemented a mental health fee in 2016. Student government voted to increase that fee $2 dollars a semester to hire more counseling positions to tackle the demand for services. This would add roughly $107,000 dollars to the University Counseling Service's budget.

    "Position one would be a shared case manager position with our Dean of Student's office, so we can better coordinate car around our students when they are in their highest levels of distress," said University Counseling Service Director Barry Schreier. "And then the second thing is to higher a staff person that will lead up and charge with doing sustainable suicide prevention initiatives on campus."

    Students also voted to fund $5,000 dollars towards a new suicide prevention training program, making it a requirement for incoming students and residential advisers to take. It is expected to be implemented around the summer of 2020.

    "It's called Kognito," said Schreier. "It's avatar based, so you're interacting with figures online. [It] basically prompts the student to actually have the conversations around suicide prevention engagement."

    Crisis intervention experts said they are thrilled the university is bringing back a program like this, now with more funding behind it.

    "We actually do crisis intervention training here and around the state, but we can't provide the training for the numbers that the university needs," said Sara Sedlacek, Director of External Relations at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank.

    Schreier said students struggling with thoughts of suicide often do not seek counseling, so having people close by that have the tools to listen and help offer resources could make a difference.

    "This is allowing us to disseminate training into the first line responders, which is staff, faculty, students, roommates, advisors," said Schreier.

    $90, 000 dollars to fund the rest of the training program will come from a three year contract with university housing and dining. The university is also looking into making it a part of training for faculty.

    If you or someone you know is in a crisis, contact the national suicide help line. The number is 1-800-273-8255.

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