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U of C launches new Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework

By Sophia Lopez, December 31 2020 —

The University of Calgary recently established a framework with a mission zero suicide.

According to the UCalgary website, the new Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework works with the foundational belief that “suicide deaths for individuals under the care of health systems are preventable” and “the only acceptable goal is zero suicide.”

The framework collaborates with the Campus Mental Health Strategy, and has also partnered with the Calgary’s Centre for Suicide Prevention and the Distress Centre in order to create a more helpful and caring campus community.

Senior Director of Student Wellness, Access and Support Debbie Bruckner spoke on the Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework and how it aims to help so many at UCalgary. Bruckner, the chair of the framework, discussed how through conversations with people such as Dr. Susan Barker, Vice-Provost of Student Experience and Dr. Andrew Szeto with the Campus Mental Health Strategy, the idea of a framework that directly helps those struggling with suicide was put into action. 

“That’s how we actually landed on the concept of the zero suicide initiative,” said Bruckner. “This framework leads to better support and resources for those who have suicidal thoughts and also helps to improve pathways and transitions to treatments.”

The Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework follows seven key goals: Lead, Educate, Identify, Engage, Assess and Guide, Transition and Improve in order to create a campus community with zero suicides.

“We need to be absolutely sure we’re looking at what we’re doing, whether it’s working and involving the whole community, particularly students in assessing that,” Bruckner adds.

The framework contains a team of mental health experts, psychologists and social workers who all take part in providing the support students need. Due to COVID-19, a shift to online services has been made in order to continue to provide these services for students during these difficult times.

“Over the last year we’ve actively changed our model to help get students the support they need sooner,” said Bruckner.

Support offered by the framework and the university overall includes resources such as single session appointments and peer supports.

“We have a very deliberate and advanced training program for students who want to be peer supporters, it’s an established program called Community Helpers,” Bruckner discussed. “These are students who are trained in supporting their peers and they may have had similar experiences they can relate to their peers.” 

In order to prevent suicide on campus, Bruckner noted the importance of creating a community that is caring and attentive.

“We believe really strongly in what we call a soci-ecological approach, like a whole campus approach,” she explained. “It’s not just about, for example, counselling one student at a time it’s about creating a supportive environment. It’s particularly about creating capacity to support each other.”

The Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework is all about reducing the possibilities of suicide on campus by providing resources, people and overall a compassionate community that can be there to support the initiative of zero suicides. Bruckner says this aspiration is possible through “[engaging] with our student community, training them, reducing stigma, getting feedback and working together so that we can reduce the isolation and some of the real challenging circumstances that might influence someone to have thoughts of suicide or self harm.”

“We are actively working right now, and have been for a while, to engage students in consultations and conversations,” said Bruckner. “We’re trying to do that through different departments and programs, and in terms of student membership more than half of the members on our advisory committee are in fact students. That voice is really guiding all of our movement forward.”

To find out more about the new Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework, its guiding principles and seven key goals, along with how to get involved and getting into contact with members visit the UCalgary website.

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