West Georgia Voices
Donjanea Fletcher Williams, Ed.D.
It Starts With You. Know the Signs. Be the Help.
This is the slogan for the Program foR Education, InterVention, Evaluation, aNd Treatment at the University of West Georgia (PREVENT@UWG) – a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health awareness program on the University of West Georgia (UWG) campus. PREVENT@UWG is a service provided by the Counseling & Career Development Center and the Department of Clinical and Professional Studies. In 2009, UWG was among only 22 institutions nationally to receive the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and only one of two schools in Georgia to receive the honor. It is out of this three year, $300,000, prestigious award that PREVENT@UWG was funded. PREVENT@UWG is the result of collaboration between a multi-disciplinary team of UWG faculty and staff.
Prevent@UWG holds events that promote better mental health and help students, faculty and staff alleviate stress and anxiety. An example is Furry Friends for Finals.
PREVENT@UWG has two goals: (1) to increase the likelihood that campus leaders, faculty and staff, also termed gatekeepers, will identify and refer students at risk of suicide and (2) to increase the number of at-risk students who seek help by reducing stigma against mental health. Since its inception, PREVENT@UWG has accomplished these goals through suicide prevention trainings on campus for faculty, staff, student leaders and emergency personnel (university police) and outreach initiatives focused on stigma reduction on campus. Outreach activities include the PREVENT@UWG website and Facebook page, along with posters, mental health related videos, programs and activities on campus and public service announcements on campus television and radio outlets.
Over the past three years, PREVENT@UWG has achieved multiple successes. At least 1,218 individuals are trained in suicide prevention because of the program, and many of the program’s media and print materials, like posters, have been exposed to the campus in general. In addition, more than half of 17 PREVENT@UWG programs held since 2010 drew more than 200 students, and representatives from 30 academic departments and areas under the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management are Prevention Team Liaisons – a volunteer support group of PREVENT@UWG. Students also have the opportunity to volunteer with PREVENT@UWG trainings and activities through the Prevention Team peer student group. While some PREVENT@UWG activities target all UWG students, other events focus on student populations considered at risk for suicide because of their unique life and environmental circumstances, such as student veterans, students with disabilities and individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Events like the PREVENT@UWG Family Fun Day offered student veterans and their families the chance to meet, eat and have fun while getting to know counselors on campus.
On September, 30, 2012, PREVENT@UWG’s grant funding will end, and with time drawing near, UWG faculty and staff working with PREVENT@UWG aim to collaborate with multiple departments on campus to continue program funding. It is hoped that through campus support that suicide prevention trainings and outreach initiatives will reach more faculty, staff and students and that everyone at UWG will one day know the signs of suicide and be of help to each other.
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