Strengthening Suicide Prevention Programs for Students of Color on College Campuses
Special Projects Fund
March 20, 2019
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and the second-leading cause of death among college students. For young people of color, the statistics are worse.
The suicide rate among African-American youth is twice that of their white counterparts. The most vulnerable students struggling with their mental health without support are students of color, immigrant and refugee students, and community college students. Nationally, 40% of African-American undergraduate and graduate students met the criteria for experiencing a mental health problem. Among those students, only 21% received a diagnosis, compared with 48% of their white peers. Stigma and shame are among the biggest factors preventing these students from seeking help. To address this disparity, the Steven C. Rose Legacy Fund (Steve Fund) created the Equity in Mental Health Framework, which enables higher education institutions to assess, plan, and strengthen mental health and wellness supports for college students of color. In 2019, NYSHealth awarded the Steve Fund a grant to expand its mental health and suicide prevention programming for college students of color in New York City.
Under this grant, the Steve Fund partnered with CUNY Queens College and Columbia University to implement its Equity in Mental Health Framework with students, staff, and faculty. The Steve Fund delivered trainings for students, capacity-building for staff supporting these students, and technical assistance to make campuses more inclusive and welcoming to students who struggle. Programming was adapted to reflect each institution’s campus culture and cover topics such as how to deal with stereotypes and incidents of discrimination, unconscious bias in the classroom, and power dynamics between minority students and faculty. Student workshops shared practical tools for managing stress, achieving success in new environments, developing a peer support network, and seeking out help. Other activities included a crisis text messaging service; support during post-college transition for students; and help for families to support and understand their students. The Steve Fund also convened a conference for scholars, campus administrators, mental health practitioners, nonprofits, students, community members, and families to raise awareness and involvement in addressing the mental health needs of students of color.