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All state universities, community colleges to receive suicide prevention tools

Watertown Daily Times - 1/4/2019

Jan. 04--Under a new state law, universities and community colleges will be provided with additional prevention tools against suicide and depression.

The bipartisan law, sponsored by Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, directs the state Office of Mental Health to develop educational materials regarding suicide prevention for educators and to work with the New York State Department of Education to distribute the materials for educators to reach more students potentially battling depression.

"Nobody is immune to depression and for many battling the disease, suicide is becoming a path far too often traveled that leaves a wake of long-lasting, devastating effects on friends, family members and communities," Sen. Ritchie said in a release. "By connecting people with the information and help they need -- especially students who are at college and away from home for the first time -- we will help save lives and let those in need know they are not alone."

Based on the most recent data collected by the state health department from 2013 to 2015, Jefferson County recorded 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 population. In Lewis County, 25.5 suicide deaths per 100,000 were recorded. St. Lawrence County had 8.6 recorded suicide deaths per 100,000.

Leslie DiStefano, marketing and communications director for Jefferson Community College, Watertown, said the college has personal counselors, crisis response measures and outside referral services for students facing mental health struggles. Additionally, the college offers suicide prevention training multiple times each year for key faculty and staff.

"We applaud Senator Ritchie's legislative effort that brings attention and resources to help combat the mental health crises many of our students face," Ms. DiStefano said.

There have been no suicides on the campus in the past 10 years, at least, according to Ms. DiStefano.

Kelly O. Chezum, vice president of marketing and external relations at Clarkson University, Potsdam, said the university has a "robust" network of on-campus and community partners to ensure student success and well-being.

Ms. Chezum said she applauds Sen. Ritchie for her work to make students aware of these resources.

For on-campus suicides, a spokeswoman for the university stated in an email that due to their privacy policy "that is not something we share."

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(c)2019 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

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