The Office of the Dean of Students applied for the Garret Lee Smith grant in February of 2018. On Oct. 1 the grant, a total of $100,000 a year for three years, took effect, allowing the Office of the Dean of Students to channel resources towards programs to address student mental health. Leading these new initiatives is Boise State’s new suicide prevention and outreach case manager, April Thorndyke, who was hired as a result of the new grant.
Associate dean of students Lauren Oe explained that the catalyst for making the decision to apply for the grant came in the spring following the suicides of three Boise State students.
“The work to address mental health is being done by different offices,” said Oe. “The idea is that as our campus has grown we need to consolidate. We need one person leading the charge.”
According to dean of students Christian Wutherich, the grant is a way to pilot outreach methods to help students get in to see mental health professionals or to examine their mental health status. The grant and Thorndyke’s position also allow the office to train faculty, staff and students to support and recognize when someone might need assistance.
“We have had concerns for a while about the mental health of our students,” Wutherich said. “This is one of the units on campus who works with students who are expressing concerns about mental health whether it is suicidal or depression or anxiety.”
New role on campus
Thorndyke, a former Boise State student herself, applied for the new campus position following her role in outpatient therapy at the Boise VA. Her job on campus is to coordinate grant-specific programs including training through the Kognito online program, roll out Sources of Strength student training and manage Campus Assessment Resource and Education (CARE) reports filed regarding suicide concerns.
Thorndyke explained that her work will revolve around the normalization of mental health topics.
Kognito is an online program that focuses on “gatekeeper training.” Gatekeeper training refers to training individuals go through to identify warning signs and adequate responses. Kognito was purchased with funds from the grant and will be used help students, faculty and staff become familiar with mental health signs and how to reach out, make referrals and recommendations, according to Wuthrich and Thorndyke.
Sources of Strength is the second program described by Oe as “a peer/student-led wellness approach.” The suicide prevention program will include adult advisors, but will mostly be comprised of students from different areas of campus. Thorndyke plans on rolling this program out in the spring semester.
Additionally, Thorndyke will act as a liaison for community agencies including crisis units, area hospitals, law enforcement and suicide hotlines. The position will also extend case management services to students post-hospitalization and after an emergency room visit.
“There is a lot of room for creativity in this new position,” Thorndyke said. “People need to know that this is even a position. I can work with direct walk-in students and have meetings with departments and faculty.”