UH Hilo receives second SAMHSA suicide prevention grant

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Date: Thursday, August 29, 2019
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669

For Immediate Release

The Department of Student Health and Wellness Programs within the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo received a three-year grant award of $261,000 to support UH Hilo’s Counseling Services in its efforts to build suicide prevention resources and strategies. The grant program is authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which is named in honor of former Senator Gordon Smith’s son who died by suicide, and is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This is the second time that UH Hilo has been awarded a SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith grant. The past grant was very successful in enabling UH Hilo to train 1,354 students, staff, and faculty in suicide prevention, add suicide prevention lifeline information cards in the restrooms on campus, and increase mental health awareness and education.

“Recent survey data from UH Hilo indicates that our students experience notable levels of anxiety, distress and depression – all of which can be risk factors for suicide,” noted Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes.

According to the American College Health Association’s College Health Assessment released in 2016, in the last 12 months, students at UH Hilo reported the following:
● 53% felt hopeless
● 83% felt overwhelmed
● 61% felt very lonely
● 65% very sad
● 43% felt so depressed that it was hard to function

Goals of this new grant project are to reduce mental health disparities related to students’ race, ethnicity, gender and/or sexual identity, educate students and campus community about alcohol and substance use and abuse to prevent suicide and reduce high-risk and harmful student behaviors, and decrease reported levels of student distress and suicidal ideation on campus. The grant team hired Chey King as the Health Promotion Specialist in July 2019, who will coordinate the UH Hilo Suicide Prevention program: Nā Kia'i O Ke Ola (Guardians of Life).

“We want to find out what is working and what more can be done--hopefully three or four steps upstream--to promote wellness and prevent situations that although always complex and unique, may ultimately lead to suicide,” said Emily Low, UH Hilo Counseling Services counselor and principal investigator. “The goal is to meet the needs of all students, including veterans and LGBTQI students, who are at higher risk for suicide, and Native Hawaiians, men, and other groups who may be less likely to seek help when in distress.”

“Services and events have begun for the semester,” King added. “We are hoping to get people from all departments to collaborate through the year and work together to make a sustainable change on campus and support student well-being.”

To access helpful services or for more information, visit https://hilo.hawaii.edu/go/42 or call the following:

• Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255
• Crisis Text Line: text “Aloha” or “Hello” to 741-741
• Crisis Line of Hawaii: 1-800-753-6879


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