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Thursday, October 24, 2013 - OU looks to "grasp" suicide prevention strategies
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant

As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of suicide and mental health issues, Oakland University’s Grizzlies Response: Awareness and Suicide Prevention (GRASP) is offering “gatekeeper” training to help the campus community identify and assist those who may need access to professional mental health services.

Led by GRASP’s interdisciplinary team, the training sessions will feature an hour-long presentation on suicide prevention basics, university protocols and a question and answer session. After completing the course, participants will receive a certificate of completion. The goal is to train 20 percent of faculty, staff and students in effective prevention, intervention and postvention approaches.

“We know that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college-aged students and is the 10th leading cause of death among American adults,” said Erica Wallace, program manager for GRASP.

“Most suicidal individuals are going through intense feelings of loneliness, disconnectedness or pain. They might not understand their feelings or know how to seek help. The GRASP training will help participants to identify warning signs, effectively communicate and refer at-risk individuals to the appropriate resources.”

Oakland’s GRASP project was launched in 2012 with support from a $612,000 grant to heighten suicide awareness and prevention both on campus and in the surrounding community. The three-year Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant, awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is being used to train faculty, staff and students to effectively address mental health, build community relationships, and educate and provide resources to the OU community.

“The GRASP initiative was started to build a capacity across the university community to promote mental health and provide sustainable suicide prevention programming,” said Dr. Michael MacDonald, associate professor of education and principal investigator of the grant.

“These challenges affect everyone, which is why it's so important to educate the whole community on how to be part of the solution.”

In the past year, GRASP leaders have worked to advance the project’s goals. A Faculty Learning Community brought together key university staff and administrators to refine and create campus crisis response protocols, develop accompanying educational materials for faculty and staff, and start dialogue within University Human Resources to evaluate the current Employee Assistance Program benefits.

In addition, the first Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR) training took place in April with 34 participants from GRASP, a website was launched and local crisis centers, area hospitals and community groups have expressed interest in partnering with GRASP to address mental health awareness within the surrounding communities.

“We've made tremendous progress and will continue to build on it,” Dr. MacDonald said. “With institutional support from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs and community collaboration, we hope to spread the message that mental health is everyone's business and that help is available to those who need it.”

Joining Dr. MacDonald, the other members of the GRASP project are Dalton Connally, assistant professor of social work; Lisa Hawley, associate professor and chair in the Department of Counseling; and Patricia Wren, associate professor and program director in the Health Sciences program.

For more information or to request a training session, call (248) 370-4377 or visit the website at

Oakland University is a vibrant academic community with more than 20,000 students and more than 260 degree and certificate programs. To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.