Brain Science and Updates From the Field

Stairways engages in suicide prevention efforts

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In observance of National Suicide Prevention Month, Stairways Behavioral Health participated in two local events in September that helped raise awareness and promote discussion on the topic of suicide.

Stairways served as a sponsor for the Erie County Suicide Task Force’s third annual conference Sept. 20 and the Out of the Darkness Walk at Presque Isle State Park on Sept. 25.

The Suicide Task Force, a consortium of professionals, survivors and families affected by suicide in the community, held its conference at the Bayfront Convention Center, where an audience of more than 300 was in attendance. Stairways Blended Case Managers Jana Zybowski and Kelly Roberts, both of whom are members of the community task force, attended the conference and represented Stairways.

The conference was broken into morning and afternoon workshops and included presentations and displays by expert speakers. Both the morning and afternoon sessions consisted of two-part lectures entitled “Social Media and Suicide Risks” and “The Ethics of Self-Harm.” The morning workshop also included presentations that examined the risks among those in the LGBTQI community and discussed correlations between criminal think and suicidal behaviors. Following the lunch break, attendees then heard presentations on self-injury and suicidal behaviors.

Participants of the conference also had the opportunity to receive education credit hours.

The task force began in 2010 when the Erie County Department of Health conducted a needs assessment that revealed Erie and its surrounding counties needed to build a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, policy, awareness and education. The team now consists of more than 30 members, including professionals in the mental health field.

Less than a week later, Stairways was represented at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk.

The walk surpassed its $10,000 fundraising goal thanks more than 250 people completing the 5K course. Walk participants included mental health professionals, survivors, affected family members and other members of the community.

Those who attended the walk also had a chance to speak with area service providers on hand and gather information for those in need. Stairways and other organizations were on site inside the Rotary Pavilion.

Both the walk and conference addressed an issue that is reaching crisis-level proportions.

In Erie as well as statewide, the prevalence of suicide is staggering. According to AFSP, suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in Pennsylvania. Among children ages 10-14, it is the leading cause of death and ranks as the second-leading cause for persons between the ages of 15 and 34.

In Pennsylvania, five people end their lives each day.

Navigating College Emotions

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Prevalence of College Student Mental Health Concerns and Where to Find Help.

College years are filled with a constant ebb and flow of emotions, from hopefulness and exhilaration to frustration and chaos. As finals week approaches, these emotions become even more heightened. Thankfully, professional help stands at the ready. Awareness and recognition is the key for family, roommates and friends to encourage students to seek help.

The Research

Since 1920, the American College Health Association (ACHA) has linked the nation’s college health professionals, serving to advance the health and wellness of college students through advocacy, education and research.

The most recent (Spring 2014) ACHA-National College Health Assessment (NCHA)* surveyed 79,266 students from 140 college, universities and post-secondary institutions across the nation, revealing the following statistics:

The Top Five Health-Related Factors Which Affected Students’ Academic Performance, e.g. lowered grade on exam or project; course dropped or incomplete; significant disruption in thesis or practicum work:

Percentage of students reporting disruptive health factor:

30.3%   Stress
21.8%   Anxiety
21.0%   Sleep difficulties
15.1%   Cold/flu/sore throat
13.5%   Depression

While a full 91.2% of surveyed students described their over-all health as good, very good, or excellent, they also reported the following felt experiences in the previous year:

86.4%   Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do
82.1%   Felt exhausted (not from physical activity)
62.0%   Felt very sad
59.2%   Felt very lonely
54.0%   Felt overwhelming anxiety
46.4%   Felt things were hopeless
37.4%   Felt overwhelming anger
32.6%   Felt so depressed it was difficult to function

Where to Find Help

For students attending 4-year colleges and universities here in Northwestern Pennsylvania, help is as close as a phone call or a short walk across campus. Families, friends and roommates can use the following list to encourage students to the seek professional help available on campus:

Crawford County Crisis Hotline 814-724-2732
Erie County Crisis Services 814-456-2014
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

Allegheny College Counseling Center
Phone number: 814-332-4368
Location: Reis Hall, 3rd Floor, room 304

Edinboro University Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Phone number: 814-732-2252
Location: Ghering Health and Wellness Center, McNerney Hall, 1st Floor

Gannon University Counseling Services
Phone number: 814-871-7622
Location: below Harborview House Apartments, 210 W. Sixth St.

Mercyhurst College Counseling Center
Erie Campus - Phone number: 814-824-3650
Location: Cohen Health Center, 4118 Briggs Avenue
North East Campus - Phone number 814-725-6136
Location: Miller Hall 7B

PSU Behrend Personal Counseling Office
Phone number: 814-898-6504
Location: Reed Union Building, First Floor, Room 1

* See the full data for the ACHA-National College Health Assessment survey here:

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