Grant to Expand EWU’s Mental Health Services

Will lead to expansion of suicide prevention training.

February 22, 2024

A federal grant is helping Eastern’s Counseling and Wellness Services continue to expand mental-health wellness and help-seeking opportunities for students, particularly those who may be at risk for suicide.

The three-year, $285,000 Garret Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, awarded to Eastern last fall by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has already helped university counseling and wellness staff enhance suicide-prevention training and skill-building programming across campus.

“Because of this grant, ten staff and faculty members have already been trained as Mental Health First (MHFA) instructors,” says Laura Gant, associate director of wellness service. MFHA courses, she says, teach university faculty and staff how to better identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training can also help mitigate any fear or hesitation around initiating conversations concerning mental health and substance-use problems.

New instructors featured with two national trainers: [from left to right] Catherine Walker, Kerry-Anne Loughman, Kylie Heintzelman, Elise Brehmer, Caroline Dias, Velvet Swell, Sonora Hernandez, Emily Migliazzo, Chris Cindric
Thanks to the grant, she adds, they will now be able to offer even more training opportunities — training that will result in improved communication about the services offered to students in distress. “More faculty and staff will know how to connect students to these services,” she says.

In addition, Gant says, the grant funding will make possible a campus-wide collaboration to create a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable plan for addressing mental health promotion and suicide prevention on campus. 

Over the past two years, nearly 100,000 Americans have died by suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. This makes increasing awareness and reducing stigma all the more important. 

“Poor mental health can impede students’ ability to persist and complete college,” says Gant. “Expanding education and resources is essential to providing this support to students at EWU.” 

If you are interested in attending a MHFA course, please visit the Counseling and Wellness Services webpage for more information on upcoming classes. Wellness services will also be training more staff and faculty in QPR Suicide Gatekeeper in the spring. If you’re interested in a one-day training to become a QPR instructor, please reach out to Laura Gant at lgant@ewu.edu.

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis and need urgent assistance please contact the Suicide and Crisis Line 988