Campus News

UHS suicide prevention program shifts focus to students

University Health Services Director of Administrative Services Arnold Jennerman and Accessible Reproductive Healthcare Initiative president Jordan Madden discussed, in multiple email exchanges, a possible plan to provide Plan B in vending machines at UW-Madison.

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A suicide prevention program from University Health Services will shift to put an emphasis on students this coming year.

At-Risk, the 30-minute online program, consists of simulated conversations aiming to help students learn to identify and properly communicate with distressed and suicidal students. While in past years the program was targeted at faculty members, this year’s program aims to help students deal with peer-to-peer situations.

“There is a shift from a faculty version to a student-targeted version,” Valerie Donovan, a suicide prevention coordinator for UHS, said. “It seemed like the next natural step was to really shift focus to saturating some of these messages among students.”

Changes to this year’s program feature updated mental health statistics and improved graphics that make the program more interactive and engaging for students. According to Donovan, the current program was shaped by feedback given by students who had participated in At-Risk during its first year.

“[The program is] avatar-based with simulated conversations to help students recognize situations and give options on how to address them,” Donovan said. “I think it provides entry-level information in a pretty approachable way.”

While participation in At-Risk is not mandatory for students, the program has reached roughly 2,100 student participants since its creation nearly two years ago, and is expected to reach 1,000 more in the coming year, Donovan said.

The current At-Risk program is set to run through August 2018. Upon its expiration, the UW-Madison Suicide Prevention Council will evaluate the success of the program before deciding its future.

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