CMC introduces suicide prevention training for some student leaders, will open to others in spring

CMC introduced suicide prevention training for some student leaders, and will open it up to others next semester. (Chris Nardi • The Student Life)

CW: Suicide, student death

As part of ongoing efforts to address mental health issues on its campus, Claremont McKenna College’s Dean of Students Office has begun training students in suicide prevention, administrators said.

The training is designed by the QPR Institute, according to Jessica Neilson, assistant dean of student health, wellness and case management. The organization’s “gatekeeper course” helps participants identify the warning signs of suicide and get help, according to QPR’s website

“In looking at various gatekeeper trainings, we opted for QPR because it covers important and relevant information in an efficient way,” Neilson said in an email to TSL. 

Other trainings are “either virtual and not as personalized, or they require such a large amount of time that we anticipated difficulty reaching as many folks on campus as we would like,” she added.

In addition to three trained staff members in the Dean of Students Office, CMC’s residential assistants, first-year guides, ASCMC’s executive board and CMC’s Psych Club have undergone training, according to Neilson. This totals about 10 percent of CMC’s student body.

“Our plan is to roll this out to the larger CMC community (open trainings for students, staff, faculty to attend) in the spring,” Neilson said.

Following two deaths which occurred within a week on its campus last February, CMC has made changes to the way it approaches mental health. 

In addition to increased resources from the Dean of Students Office, ASCMC also sends out a weekly Mental Health Monday email to students, Lisa Hao CM ’20, ASCMC’s presidential adviser on mental health, said in an email to TSL. 

“It seems difficult to know what the school’s role and responsibilities are versus each individual student’s role and responsibilities,” Hao said. “But ultimately, we all want our students to be healthy, resilient, empowered and mentally well.”

Simran Arora CM ’21, president of the Psych Club, agreed that campus culture surrounding mental health is improving. 

“Obviously, as a campus, all of us have a lot of work to do together, but I think the administration is taking steps in the right direction,” Arora said.

She took part in QPR training and said “it started a conversation that did not exist [before].”

For instance, the course addressed language that stigmatizes suicide. 

“We always say someone committed suicide, [like] they commit crimes … someone lost their life to suicide,” Arora said. “And this was one of the smallest parts of the training, but just that change in how we’re addressing it is something important. I learned a lot that day.” 

Neilson said CMC administrators are using feedback from students as well as academic data, campus climate surveys, data from the National College Health Assessment surveys and results to better understand how to support students’ health and wellness. 

“We know that we have continued work ahead in supporting students from a broad range of diverse backgrounds and to develop more upstream efforts to reinforce a campus ethos of well-being and arm students with skills to intervene when they or someone they know is suffering,” she said. “QPR training is one of those resulting interventions.”

Hao said she wants to see these new conversations keep happening.

More than anything, I hope that we continue discussing these different issues so people understand how mental health isn’t a ‘problem that a select group of people deal with’ but an important aspect of everyone’s lives,” she said.

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