Getting the help they deserve

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, and 10 percent of college students report suicidal thoughts, according to the Center for Student Health and Counseling.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, and 10 percent of college students report suicidal thoughts, according to the Center for Student Health and Counseling.

While suicide prevention efforts and counseling have always been available through the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), the center stepped up its work after former Senator Gordon Smith lost his 21-year-old son Garrett to suicide in 2003.

Sen. Smith’s Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was passed in 2004 and today, Carla Riedlinger and Tim Hagge are entering their fifth year of a program to educate Portland State about suicide intervention and prevention.

Riedlinger and Hagge are a part of the Oregon College and University Suicide Prevention Project.

“We believe that suicide is often preventable, and we’ve developed a multifaceted program to raise awareness on our campuses and to assist at-risk students in receiving appropriate help,” the OCUSPP Web site reads.

Colleges and universities involved in the program include Lewis and Clark College, Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State, Reed College, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon and University of Portland.

“We will never prevent every single suicide but we can help most people who ask for help,” Riedlinger said.
The OCUSPP program promotes suicide awareness on campus and holds seminars to train students and faculty who interact with suicidal students.

“At nearly every training, about 75 percent of people in the room raise their hands when we ask if anyone has had experience with someone close to them attempting or completing suicide,” said Riedlinger, SHAC crisis services coordinator.

Between July 2008 and July 2009, at least 415 faculty and staff, 750 parents and 320 students attended seminars provided by Riedlinger and Hagge. Three other SHAC members assist Riedlinger and Hagge when needed.

These figures do not include SHAC’s Counseling and Psychological Services staff and interns who receive regular training, or all Residence Life staff.

“So far, we have not held a huge seminar in a large venue, because it is a sensitive issue, we prefer to do more of them in smaller groups so we can fully address any questions or concerns that come up,” Riedlinger said.

Another outreach program at Portland State is called “Let’s Talk,” based on a program first done at Cornell University. A counselor is on campus for an hour or two each week to speak with students about anything they want to discuss.

“It’s not therapy, but more of a consultation,” Riedlinger said.

Currently the Queer Resource Center, Student Veterans Office, Ondine Student Success Center, Broadway second floor conference room, University Studies Office, Office of International Affairs and the Undergraduate Advising and Support Center have a counselor available on a weekly basis.

Portland State additionally has a committee that focuses on students of concern.

“If a faculty member has a concern about a student, they can meet with this committee and get consultation about the best way to handle the situation,” Riedlinger said.

All of these efforts work together within the campus community to help students at risk.

“We believe that suicide is a public health issue and try to solicit everyone to be involved in a culture of caring to recognize those who may be suffering…and to assist them in getting the help they deserve,” said Tim Hagge, outreach coordinator at SHAC.

SHAC can receive referrals from faculty, staff and students.

“We never know how many lives we save, but we do know that our work gets more people referred for help, and we also know that most of the people who get help get better,” Riedlinger said.


Suicide prevention seminars:
Carla Riedlinger
Crisis Services and OCUSPP Coordinator
[email protected]

SHAC Student assistance

Mon–Thu, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Fri, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On-call counselor is available

“Let’s Talk”

University Studies Office, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cramer Hall, first floor

Undergraduate Advising and Support Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union

Office of International Affairs, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
East Hall, room 101

Student Veterans Center, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
SMSU, second floor mezzanine

Queer Resource Center, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
SMSU, fourth floor

Ondine Student Success Center, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Broadway Hall, second floor conference room, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.