Grant Enables Bergen Community College and Care Plus NJ, Inc. to Initiate Student Suicide Prevention Program

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration has awarded Bergen Community College a $301,215 grant to support a college-wide suicide prevention program. The College and Care Plus NJ, Inc., a Paramus-based behavioral health care organization, collaborated on the grant application.

The announcement comes at a time when suicide and mental illness are at the forefront of the news, as this is National Suicide Prevention Week. World Suicide Prevention Day was yesterday.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), a federal agency with a mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities, awarded the 3-year grant to provide funds for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for campus personnel and students. Grant funds also help the College and Care Plus develop and implement educational seminars and produce informational materials to increase awareness as well as enable the College to enhance the services of its Health, Wellness and Personal Counseling Center.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has identified sub-populations at the highest suicide risk level to include young males, military service members and veterans, and youth who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). While the services will be open to the entire student body, the program will target at-risk groups as well as students in remedial and developmental programming who show signs of discouragement and disengagement.

The program’s goal is to raise awareness and enhance the College’s capacity to respond to issues related to suicide and mental health, as well as work to eliminate the stigma often associated with mental illness.

“Our collaborative approach in the grant application allowed us to provide a clear combination of statistical data on the need for – and success of – prevention initiatives, along with the right resources to work with the College to implement the program. Our field experience in crisis and trauma; in-school programs on mental health, suicide, and LGBT issues; and the Certified MHFA trainers on staff makes this is a perfect fit,” stated Tara Augustine, Vice President, Care Plus NJ, Inc. “There is a very strong need to offer mental health awareness and suicide prevention, along with ‘first break’ support to this vulnerable group.”

Professor Kathleen Pignatelli of the College’s Center for Health, Wellness and Personal Counseling, pointed out that suicide impacts family members and others in the lives of those who die by suicide.

“We need to help people learn to recognize those in danger and inform them of what to do when they see someone they believe to be at risk and not just ignore it,” Professor Pignatelli said. “We will help students learn that they can save a life. Our students will respond. They have heart.”

A Training and Awareness Consultant from Care Plus will provide the critical leadership required to build the infrastructure of the new programs. With their experience in a wide-variety of mental health care services in the northern New Jersey area, and an established relationship with Bergen Community College as well as other community partners, Care Plus offers a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.

Bergen already has one event planned for Oct. 11. “HeART of Healing” will explore recovery and untraditional strategies to achieve wellness. The program will be held in the Technology Education Center on the main campus in Paramus. It will feature students and professional therapists discussing their stories of healing through art, poetry and music. The event will include a discussion of many resources available within the college and community.

A photo is available on the Care Plus NJ Facebook page.