The University at Albany, State University of New York (UAlbany) proposes to implement Project ACCESS (Achieving College Completion Through Enhanced Support Services), a comprehensive suicide prevention program that aims to reduce the incidence of suicide, suicide attempts, and other related risk factors such as alcohol and other drug (AOD) misuse and abuse among its undergraduate and graduate students with a special emphasis on high-risk and historically marginalized student populations such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning (LGBQ), Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC), Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), disabled, and veteran students. Located in the capital of New York, UAlbany is a large public institution in which over 40% of its approximately 17,000 students, particularly those within the above-mentioned sub-populations, are contending with serious challenges such as poverty, homelessness, and mental health and substance use-related stressors that compromise their academic and career success and health and well-being and underscore the critical need for comprehensive and robust suicide prevention efforts on campus. Beyond the existing data-informed evidence of needs across these student groups, a Fall 2021 faculty survey indicated a need and willingness on the parts of both teaching faculty and professional and classified staff to receive specialized training in supporting LGBQ, TGNC, BIPOC, disabled, and Veteran students. Building on the University's long history of commitment and national leadership in both the suicide prevention and alcohol and substance misuse and abuse prevention fields and having in place a comprehensive prevention program infrastructure consistent with recommendations from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and the Jed Foundation, Project ACCESS will address the following goals:
1. Increase collaboration among campus departments and the Capital Region community to address current and emerging student mental and behavioral health needs;
2. Increase the number of students who are screened and assessed for mental health and substance use disorders in a manner that is both timely and responsive to their cultures;
3. Increase knowledge and self-efficacy of faculty, staff, and students to respond effectively to students with mental health and behavioral health problems that lead to school failure, such as depression, substance misuse and abuse and suicidal thoughts and attempts;
4. Increase awareness of campus and community resources that can identify, assess and treat mental health and substance misuse and abuse problems;
5. Increase help seeking for mental health and behavioral health problems;
6. Decrease suicide attempts and related proximal risk factors that may lead to suicide;
7. Institutionalize effective program components and disseminate information at local, state, and national levels.
To address these goals, the Project ACCESS team will provide gatekeeper training to 200 individuals per year, educational presentations to a minimum of 200 individuals per year, screen a minimum of 200 students per year for mental health and substance use-related problems and utilize student-driven social media efforts to disseminate prevention messaging across the campus community, reaching all students. This project will allow students at highest risk for suicide and substance use, particularly those who have been historically marginalized, to access higher education opportunities, be retained in and complete college, continue progress toward advanced study and entry into the workforce, and experience health and enhanced quality of life.