The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 13, 2020 1:00 am

Grant to help mental health

PFW receives $582,000 for student services

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Jeannie DiClementi knew after one depression-screening event that Purdue University Fort Wayne students would benefit from more mental health outreach.

Now, eight years later, the psychology department associate professor cannot recall any subsequent events that haven't prompted counseling referrals.

DiClementi recently secured her third grant to support mental health services for students, Purdue Fort Wayne announced Wednesday.

The three-year, $582,000 grant was awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the university said.

It is funded through the 2004 Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which authorized $82 million for youth suicide prevention programs on college campuses nationwide, the university added.

Offering these services is important because substance use and abuse, mental health issues and suicide are top problems facing college campuses nationwide, DiClementi said.

Some students come to college with a history of mental health issues, she said. Other students might become distressed after starting college, which can be a stressful time considering class demands and new decisions students are faced with, she added.

“It's a prime breeding ground for mental health issues,” DiClementi said.

DiClementi received her first Garrett Lee Smith grant in 2012 to start an ongoing program that provides suicide awareness and training on campus. She earned another grant in 2018 to support training for employees as well as screenings, assessments and interventions for students.

The new grant – which brings the total grant funding over $1.5 million – will strengthen existing links between Purdue Fort Wayne and area service providers to better address students' mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention needs, the university said.

More mental health clinicians will be available as resources for students, for instance, DiClementi said.

To underscore the need, DiClementi recalled the first campus-wide depression screening in 2012. About 200 randomly selected students were evaluated, she said, and 30 needed immediate intervention.

“We were just floored,” she said.

She added the screenings helped identify students before their distress escalated to something more serious.

This semester, DiClementi said, screenings are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and address depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

She encouraged people to seek help for themselves or others. Getting mental health treatment is no different than going to the doctor for a physical injury, she said: “Think of it as a sprained wrist.”

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