director of Counseling Care, 308.865.8248; Ismael Torres, health educator, 308.865.8092
The University of Nebraska at Kearney has received a three-year grant, totaling nearly $225,000, from the Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The grant, $74,963 each year, was awarded under SAMHSA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program.
“Nationwide, there is a sharp increase in the number of students needing to be treated for depression,” said Dr. LeAnn Obrecht, UNK director of Counseling Care. “The demand for services is through the roof.”
In announcing the grant, acting Deputy Administrator of SAMHSA Eric Broderick said, “Suicide is a preventable tragedy for individuals, for families and for communities. By working on suicide prevention in schools and on athletic fields, in workplaces and places of worship, and at home, we can save thousands of lives.”
Ismael Torres, the UNK health educator who wrote the grant, said, “There has been an increase in the number of students seen in health care and in counseling care. Our goal is intervention.
“According to the National College Health Assessment Survey conducted on our campus last spring , many young people have thoughts of suicide, but don’t seek help,” Torres said.
Through this grant, training programs for faculty and staff will be developed to raise their awareness levels, so they will be aware of signs that students are depressed and should seek help. Peer educators will be selected and trained to recognize signs of depression.
“We will be targeting first and second year students, because those are years of high stress,” he said. “We will also be targeting international students, because they have to adjust to cultural issues.
“In addition, we will be hiring a master’s degree level counselor to serve as the project director for this project,” Torres said. “And we will also contract with a psychiatrist to provide services.
“With the support from this grant, all of these services will be free to our students,” he added.
Torres also pointed to the fact that increased depression levels is part of a national trend saying, “One in five Americans live with a mental disorder and one-half don’t seek help. A lot of people think it’s a weakness or a moral issue. Others think they shouldn’t feel depressed, because they have a good life here, and some don’t seek help, because they fear disclosure or rejection by their friends.”
To make it more comfortable for students to seek help, a portion of this grant is earmarked for the offices of Health Care and Counseling Care to be moved adjacent to each other.
“Often students need medication in addition to counseling, and we want to make it easier for the students to obtain medication when it is necessary,” Torres said. “Having the offices together will make that possible.”