President's Report Masthead
March 1, 2016

Mental health initiatives

In the area of student mental health, there have been several initiatives coming out of the University Counseling Center (UCC) involving suicide prevention, mental-health promotion and implementation of a brief therapy model to improve access to care. 

The UCC has taken a leading role in the University’s partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nationally recognized non-profit organization that collaborates with institutions of higher education to create a comprehensive approach to mental-health promotion and suicide prevention. The University is participating in a three-year process as part of “The Jed Campus Program,” which is designed to empower schools with a framework and customized support to enhance student mental health. By becoming a member of the campus program, Binghamton University is demonstrating a commitment to the emotional well-being of its students by embarking on a multi-year strategic collaboration. Excellent suicide prevention can only be accomplished within a framework of excellent comprehensive strategies to enhance student mental health. 

A key element to mental-health promotion and suicide prevention is student access to mental-health care. The UCC has recently been implementing a brief therapy model that will provide better initial access and more even distribution of counseling sessions to many students. The brief model encourages more focused counseling on well-defined goals with a defined end-point. With fewer students in long-term counseling, more counselor hours can be dedicated to quick, initial access, and more students can be served with brief therapy when they come in as new clients to the UCC. This change means that more students can be seen for initial meetings, urgent meetings and ongoing sessions within the brief therapy limits. For students whose needs extend beyond the limits of brief therapy, the UCC provides tailored referrals to community resources, much like medical primary care doctors make referrals for more specialized care. These referrals are tailored according to the individual students, factoring in areas of specialty, insurance and geographic location or transportation availability. 

The results of the change to brief therapy so far this semester have been very promising: quicker initial appointments that have been available within only one to two days, and significantly reduced waits for ongoing appointments beyond the initial meeting. 

The brief therapy model is the latest in a series of strategic initiatives to enhance student mental health.  Clinical strategies have included increased group counseling and hiring of counselors with multicultural counseling expertise. Outreach and prevention strategies have included adding a mental health outreach coordinator, implementing a student peer education program for mental health (the M-HOPE program), supporting the re-opening of the High Hopes Helpline, creating the MHA Mental Health Advocate certificate program and developing a bystander program through the 20:1 sexual assault peer education program.

EAP coordinates postvention initiative

In an effort to promote suicide prevention and mental-health awareness, the Employee Assistance Program initiated an interdisciplinary Postvention Committee. The committee’s objective is to coordinate development of an integrative team that will follow a specific protocol in response to a death by suicide. The expectation is that, by following this protocol, additional suicides can be prevented and healing can be promoted. The target for support is the community-at-large, specifically students, family members, faculty, staff or others impacted by a suicide death. Since January, key stakeholders across campus have participated in training and consultation with two certified trainers from the Central New York Suicide Prevention Coalition: Sam Catroppa from the NYS Office of Mental Health and Garra Lloyd-Lester from Cortland County Mental Health.

Members of the Postvention Committee include representatives from the offices of communications and marketing, health education, the University Counseling Center (UCC), the dean of students, residential life, physical facilities, human resources, International Student and Scholar Services, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), University Police, emergency management, a representative from faith-based organizations and partners from the Greater Binghamton Health Center.

With suicide as the leading cause of death among college and university students in the United States, it is essential to proactively engage in strategies to enhance interventions to reduce the rate of suicide and suicide attempts. In addition, the recognition of the impact of suicide deaths on family, friends, co-workers and community members is vital as the costs can have a debilitating effect within an organization and community. Binghamton University aims to be a model university for mental health promotion and suicide prevention programs.

By following best practice standards, the Binghamton University Postvention Team will facilitate a collaborative and streamlined crisis response to the campus community following a death by suicide by:

o Ensuring that communication is consistent and clear
o Providing resources and education
o Offering grief support and assistance with the planning for mourning activities that includes safe messaging
o Identifying and referring at-risk students, faculty and/or staff members to UCC and EAP
o Re-establishing equilibrium in the workplace and the classroom for optimal functioning