University of Idaho Receives Grant for Suicide Prevention

Wednesday, December 11 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho – To help curb a statewide issue, the University of Idaho is working to reduce the number of student suicides with the help of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant, a national grant that aims to educate the public on suicide prevention and bystander intervention.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded the University of Idaho Counseling and Testing Center with the three-year grant totaling $303,000 to support the university’s efforts of addressing mental illness, depression and thoughts of suicide through September 2016.

“The grant is designed to help us build our own comprehensive plan to address mental health issues and educate people about when to speak up when someone is talking about suicide.” said Sharon Fritz, University of Idaho licensed psychologist and professor. “One common myth is that if you don’t want to mention suicide because it will plant the idea in the person’s mind.”

The university will design its own comprehensive plan to address the five following areas:
• Train the university community to recognize the signs or symptoms of suicide and make appropriate referrals;
• Increase awareness of the campus crisis line (208-885-6716) and the national hotline number (1-800-273-TALK);
• Provide educational seminars to inform the university community of suicide prevention efforts, recognize risk factors and warning signs, and increase protective measures;
• Increase partnerships with area hospitals;
• Decrease the stigma of seeking counseling and increase help seeking behavior.
Additionally, the university will hire a program coordinator devoted specifically to educating students, staff and faculty to the signs of suicide.

“Mental health issues create significant challenges for students who already facing stresses in a competitive university environment,” said Bruce Pitman, dean of students and vice provost of student affairs. “Many of our more serious problems involve students who are suffering from severe depression. This grant will help us build more capacity and expertise to help these students and reduce the likelihood that tragedies will occur.”

According to the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN) of Idaho, in 2010 Idaho had the sixth highest suicide rate in the nation, and is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults in Idaho. In the last five years, 12 residents per 100,000 in Latah County have died as a result of suicide. On average, three student deaths per year at the University of Idaho involved alcohol or suicide. National studies show a higher risk for suicide in people in their late teens to late 20s.

“This isn’t unique to Idaho though,” said Fritz. “This is a national issue. In 1999, the Surgeon General identified mental health and suicide as a public health issue. In 2012, the US adopted a national strategy for suicide prevention. Students are coming to college with experience regarding alcohol and prior mental health issues. These prevention efforts are another way for the University of Idaho to emphasize that we do have your back.”

The Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant provides three-year grants to support suicide prevention work in campus, state and tribal communities. To date, the grant has provided funding for 68 state, territory and tribal community grants, along with 74 college campus grants for suicide prevention efforts.

For more information about the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit