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East Central University is one of only 17 institutions of higher learning in 2017 to receive the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant, it was recently announced.

The grant will be utilized in the ECU Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program, part of the Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery.

“I am thrilled that ECU is a grant recipient, Suicide knows no boundaries and even one death to suicide is too many,” said Holli Witherington, executive director of the Brandon Whitten Institute. “It is important for our campus to do all we can do to prevent suicide and build a comprehensive support network on our campus.”

The purpose of the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant is to facilitate a comprehensive public health approach to prevent suicide in institutions of higher education. The grant is designed to assist college and universities in building essential capacity and infrastructure to support expanded efforts to promote wellness and help-seeking of all students.

Additionally, this grant will offer outreach to vulnerable students, including those experiencing substance abuse and mental health problems, who are at a greater risk for suicide and suicide attempts.

The three-year grant is for $306,000 ($102,000 per year).

“Mental health issues often first occur between the ages of 18 to 24 and suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-34 year-olds in the U.S., so it is critical that we are doing all we can to help our students,” Witherington said.

Through the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant, ECU plans to provide at least 450 students and employees with suicide prevention gatekeeper programs, according to Witherington. This means there will be at least one gatekeeper (or person trained in suicide prevention) for every 10 students.

“We also plan to train at least 30 student leaders on more in-depth prevention and advocacy skills and provide 100 percent of our students and employees with access to suicide prevention materials and messaging,” said Witherington. “Our overall goal is to decrease the number of students experiencing depression, anxiety, substance misuse and suicide attempts and take a ‘zero-suicide framework’ approach on our campus.”

Those interested in signing up for training can contact Witherington at 580-559-5815. Both campus and community members are welcome to attend training. No training dates have been set, but will be set soon.


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