Emory’s suicide prevention program, “Emory Cares 4 U,” will now be funded by the University and conducted within the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), formerly known as Student Counseling Services, after a three-year suicide prevention federal grant ended in August, Suicide Prevention Coordinator Mahlet Endale said.
The initiatives under the grant – which provided $100,000 a year for three years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – will slow down. Also, the duties will now be spearheaded by Endale in CAPS rather than by the previous coalition of about 20 individuals housed in the satellite offices spread throughout campus, Endale said.
According to Endale, the program’s former coordinators lobbied for the University to fund for Endale’s position in order to continue program initiatives.
The manpower is now limited as the work of a group has now fallen onto the lap of one, Endale said.
“We are trying to see, of all the programming, what we can really do and keep up,” Endale said. “What were the most effective components of the grant?”
With the program’s responsibilities supplanted into CAPS, the priorities for this coming year are: “How do we continue to have people who have been involved with the grant maintain their involvement … Also, how do you sustain a program within the system we have existing,” Jane Yang, outreach coordinator at CAPS, said. Yang was not only involved in the grant’s implementation but also continues her involvement as Endale’s immediate supervisor.
According to Endale, the program will maintain three primary initiatives – the online anonymous stress and depression screening, the “QPR Gatekeeper” training (Question, Persuade and Refer trains members to recognize and help those at risk of a suicide crisis) and the suicide prevention helpline, which was not directly funded by the grant but will now fall under Endale’s supervision.
Also, whereas people who went through the previous Emory Cares 4 U program were referred to both outside resources as well as CAPS, now, the vast majority of people will be referred to the center. For example, out of the 160 students who took the online assessment since the beginning of the year, 60 of them sought counseling and only six or seven of those 60 were not counseled in house.
Because of this shift, other changes include a reduction in the number of QPR trainings and the number of the center’s University-wide mental health programs.
“We can’t emulate [the previous program] directly just because we don’t have the resources to do it.” Endale said. The real goal is to select the most effective programs and discover ways to implement them within this new system, she said.
The decisions about where the program should focus its energy was done in collaboration with an advisory committee which includes many of the people who worked under the grant, Yang said. This committee continues to provide feedback on the changeover. Yang said she was pleased to see continued involvement from those who worked under the grant as it signifies the faculty and staff commitment and support.
The largest challenges with this shift include people power and maintaining the integrity of the previous program, according to Yang.
“Anytime grant money runs out, it’s difficult because you’re trying to fill a large gap of things,” Yang said. “But the fact that we can hire [Endale] really speaks to the University’s commitment to suicide prevention.”
Endale’s personal No. 1 goal is to expand the QPR training to as many people as possible, she said. Also she plans to roll-out the online assessment through mass emails next semester, which the program previously did, rather relying on students to find the link on the website. Yang said she is primarily looking for campaigns for stigma reduction, especially those that involve student help.
Overall, Endale said that the Emory University’s suicide prevention program is a much more proactive approach than the other universities she has seen, allowing the student body to discuss the topic in a more open and less stigmatized space.
Mark McLeod, Director of CAPS and co-executive director under the grant, said that the grant was one of the game changers that created the progressive suicide prevention program.
“The grant, and what we did with it, certainly put us in an elite group,” McLeod wrote in an email. “Having said that, mental health on U.S. campuses is becoming a more talked about subject across the country, not just at Emory, and I do think that is a positive thing.”
The previous three years with the grant money were the “start-up years” of the suicide prevention program with the creation of the website and the logistics of the online screening assessment, according to Yang. That assessment became another invitation to students to enter into the center, Yang said.
“One of the biggest things that is did was it helped us develop a dialogue around suicide prevention work that involved people from many different campus offices and also the students from many different walks of life,” Yang said.
Emory is one of the few schools that has not experienced a completed suicide in a while, Yang said. She also said that Emory is one of the schools that used the grant money most effectively.
“The Administration here really cares about how students are doing and that’s reflected in the commitment they have to support the counseling and mental health services,” Yang said.
– Contact Karishma Mehrotra at