Bucks Certified for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Services
Annual plan to address such issues earned state certification, one of only five colleges or universities in Pennsylvania with the designation
As life-altering changes from the global pandemic lead to an increase in mental health issues, Bucks County Community College is proud to announce that it is now a Certified Suicide Prevention Institution of Higher Education.
Bucks is one of only five colleges and universities that have earned the designation from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
In accordance with Act 110 of 2018, all Pennsylvania institutions of higher education are encouraged to develop and implement a plan to advise students and staff on mental health and suicide prevention resources available on and off campus. Institutions that meet the requirements are designated as certified, and recognized on the annual list published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Plans are updated and submitted annually to ensure that information is up to date.
While Bucks has always offered free and confidential counseling services for students, the Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention plan is a little different, according to Dekia Smith, Ed.D, associate dean of student success and retention.
“This plan specifically addresses mental health and suicide prevention in a way that gives more in-depth information, like warning signs and risks for suicide, and most importantly, campus, local, and national resources that students, faculty and staff can access,” said Smith. “Given that we are a community college, we don’t have accessible counseling services 24/7, so it is vital that we provide as many resources as possible.”
The college’s plan, launched on the Bucks.edu website over the summer, includes information valuable for any community member, such as how to find a therapist, and national resources for suicide prevention. The plan can be found at https://bit.ly/BucksStdMentalHealth.
Smith says demand for counseling services at Bucks has been constant, with about 1,000 student requests for appointments since March 15, when the college shifted to mostly remote operations. There was not the usual slowdown over the summer or at the start of the new term. And there was a shift in the nature of the requests, from a mix of career, personal, or general concerns, to more mental- and emotional-health related issues.
“The COVID crisis and moving to remote learning and work has had a direct impact on our students,” said Smith. “Some, who already had identified mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression or even substance use, had reoccurrences that really caused them to struggle, but we also saw an onset of these mental health disorders in students that had never dealt with this before.”
Smith emphasized that the resources on the college’s Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention plan can benefit many members of the community.
“The pandemic put a huge strain on all of us, staff and faculty as well,” added Smith. “We all feel the constant stress of living in a remote and semi-isolated bubble, and it’s tough.”
More information about the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s postsecondary student mental health and suicide prevention program is here. A list of higher education institutes that are certified is here.