Student Health and Wellness receives grant to address suicide prevention

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
Director, Media Relations, University of Hawaii at Hilo
Posted: Oct 2, 2012

The Department of Student Health and Wellness Programs within the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo recently received a three-year grant award of $261,000 to support UH Hilo’s Counseling Services in its efforts of suicide prevention. The grant program is authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which is named in honor of former Senator Gordon Smith’s son who died by suicide, and is operated by HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The goal of this grant project is to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of UH Hilo students through a peer-to-peer outreach and support network,” explained Sulma Gandhi, director for Student Health and Wellness. “Additionally, we will build infrastructure to improve communication networks and knowledge among key staff and gatekeepers who come in contact with students who may benefit from counseling services.
“The UH Hilo Suicide Prevention Grant serves a widely diverse student body that reflects multicultural Hawai‘i,” she added. “Targeted sub-populations of students are those at high risk for depression and suicide, such as veterans, LGBTQI students, Native Hawaiians, students with disabilities, and students who stigmatize mental health help. Over the course of three years, we will provide semester-long workshops to train peers from these targeted groups on how to identify, support, and refer students in distress.”
“Recent survey data from UH Hilo indicates that our students do experience notable levels of anxiety, distress and depression – all of which can be risk factors for suicide,” noted Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Luoluo Hong. “With Dr. Gandhi now here on campus to initiate our inaugural health promotion and wellness programs, it is timely that we have received this generous grant to educate the campus community.”
According to a Fall 2010 UH Hilo student survey administered by the American College Health Association:
  • 46% of students felt overwhelming anxiety within the last year
  • 60% felt very sad within the last year
  • 33.8% of students felt so depressed that it was difficult to function within the last year
  • 6.6% seriously considered suicide within the last year