In partnership with the state Office of Mental Health, the State University of New York has launched a crisis text line and online suicide prevention training program to help New Yorkers, particularly students, confront mental health issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The free and confidential crisis text line can be accessed by texting Got5U to 741-741, a branch of New York’s existing crisis text line available to anyone, which can be accessed by texting Got5 to 741-741.
While counseling centers at all 64 SUNY campuses remain open for virtual appointments, trained crisis text line staffers are available 24/7 to listen to and talk with students, faculty, staff and community members about depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts, substance use, relationship issues, domestic violence, COVID-19 stressors and other mental health issues. Either text line is open to anyone, not just those affiliated with SUNY, an OMH spokesperson told the Times.
“Slowing the spread of COVID-19 has called for a series of sudden shifts to how we live, work, study and interact,” SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said in a statement. “Though this transition is necessary to keep people safe, there may be an unintended, psychological impact of these changes on many of our students, faculty and staff.”
The partnership’s online suicide prevention training initiative is piloted by the QPR Institute, a national training program founded in 1999, through the joint efforts of Spokane Mental Health and other Washington state health and research groups. The QPR Institute likens QPR, an emergency mental health intervention that stands for question, persuade and refer, to CPR, the emergency medical intervention, cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Much like the chain of survival model used to facilitate emergency cardiac care — early recognition, early CPR, early defibrillation and early advanced life support — QPR follows a chain of survival model, too.
The QPR Institute emphasizes the importance of early recognition of a suicidal crisis, as the sooner the warning signs are identified and help is sought, the more positive the outcome of a suicidal crisis will be. Early QPR can “open up a conversation” that may lead to a referral, and early intervention and referral to local resources is critical, the QPR Institute reports. Early advanced life support can take place once a person in crisis is met by a mental health professional to receive potential treatment.
The institute’s QPR training is designed to teach people how to recognize a suicidal crisis, someone who may be in emotional distress or someone having suicidal thoughts. Trainees also learn how best to engage with a person in crisis and connect them to resources.
SUNY community members interested in participating in a 60-minute online training program can register on the QPR Institute website and enter “SUNY” as the organization code.
The SUNY and OMH two-component initiative is funded by a portion of a $3.68 million Garrett Lee Smith grant awarded to New York’s OMH last year through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Garrett Lee Smith, who died by suicide in 2003 at age 21, is the namesake of the grant program established by the 2004 Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which initially allocated $82 million for youth suicide prevention grants to be distributed to states and tribal nations.
Recent data, collected for 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lists suicide as a leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 10 and 34 that year, second only to deaths caused by unintentional injuries in the same age range.
For students specifically, several national organizations have surveyed high school, undergraduate and graduate students about mental health and suicide over the last decade.
Based on undergraduate survey responses from spring 2019 students across the country, the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment reports 48.7% of women surveyed had “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” in the last 12 months, with 37.4% of men responding in that category. Survey responses also indicated that 14.1% of women and 12.6% of men had “seriously considered suicide” in the last 12 months.
In addition to the New York and SUNY crisis text lines, existing mental health resources are available to all, 24/7:
— National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
— National Suicide Hopeline: 1-800-442-4673
— North Country Crisis Helpline: 1-866-577-3836, TTY at 1-877-829-1278
— REACHOUT of Saint Lawrence County: 1-315-265-2422
— Crisis Response for Jefferson County: 1-315-782-2327