New bill would help U fight suicide

by Anna Weggel

The University might receive funding geared toward suicide prevention in the near future.

Last week, President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, a bill that allows the government to give $15 million to college mental-health centers over the next three years to help combat suicide.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., created the bill in honor of his son who committed suicide in September 2003, said Smith’s spokesman Chris Matthews.

Although Bush signed the bill last week, funding is not available yet because Congress must approve the funding, Matthews said.

He said the appropriations bill – which would guarantee this funding – should come up within a couple of weeks. After this, colleges and universities can apply for grants, he said.

John Engelen, University director of federal relations, said that if the bill receives funding, the University will have to put together a proposal to compete with other colleges for money.

“I would be hopeful, but we would be competitive and would go for whatever we could,” he said. “The impact of the funding would be great here because we have a large student body.”

The bill includes the creation of new research and training centers, as well as funding for a new statewide grant program geared toward suicide prevention strategies. It also includes a number of other services related to suicide among college students and youth.

College counseling centers, training clinics, psychological service centers, substance-abuse programs and mental-health centers are among the recipients qualified for grants.

Matthews said colleges and universities are included in the bill because of the risk of suicide among college students.

“When students go to college, it’s the first time most of them are on their own,” he said. “It can be a very challenging time adjusting to new life. It’s important that they have a safety net.”

Journalism and business sophomore Jim Hammerand said he doesn’t believe simply funding programs will solve the problem.

“Throwing money on it isn’t the answer,” he said.

Hammerand said he believes there needs to be more awareness of the issue on campus.

Journalism junior Ted Hoffstrom said he isn’t sure how much of an issue suicide is among college students.

But Hoffstrom said he knows there are lots of cases of depression in college.

“I think (the bill) would probably have some use,” he said.