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University Health earns $3.6 million grant for suicide prevention program

Suicides among young people, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ population, have increased significantly in recent years, and in 2021 was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10–24. To help address this, University Health has been awarded a $3.6 million, four-year federal grant for CoSPLAY (Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Blueprint for Adults and Youth). Funding for the program begins this week, which is National Suicide Prevention Week.

It’s a new program but not a new commitment for University Health’s Community Initiatives and Population Health, which is building on the success of another federally funded program, the Zero Suicide initiative.

“It’s the beginning of another four years of very intense work, but we’re glad to be doing it,” said Mercedes Ingram, PhD, director of population health.

While Zero Suicide has helped numerous people screened through University Health care sites, CoSPLAY will expand to involve multiple partners in higher education and organizations serving teens and young adult LGBTQ+ people. CoSPLAY aims to strengthen access and delivery of suicide care interventions, create protective environments, and identify and support persons at risk for suicide.

CoSPLAY partners include Our Lady of the Lake University, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio College and organizations like Alamo Area Teen Suicide Prevention Coalition and Fiesta Youth.

The CoSPLAY program is designed with multiple pathways to reach and help young people at risk. University Health is beginning with its own clinics and then expanding to work with community partners to train staff to recognize warning signs and connect people to resources and care. We will create health care-based interventions in which patients will be screened for risk. Those who screen positive will be connected to social workers trained in reducing access to lethal means. Another element of the program will involve training teachers in coping and problem-solving related to high-risk individuals.

Program staff have goals of de-stigmatization and a 10% reduction in suicides and suicide attempts that they plan to achieve through health care provider training, expanded access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources, and teaching coping and problem-solving skills through social-emotional learning programs.

CoSPLAY is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Some statistics to consider:

“Deaths due to suicide and homicide, often referred to collectively as violent deaths, have been a leading cause of premature death to people aged 10–24 in the United States. A previous version of this report with data through 2017 showed that suicide and homicide rates for people aged 10–24 were trending upward … The suicide rate among people aged 10–24 remained stable from 2001 through 2007 and then increased 62% from 2007 through 2021 (from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 to 11.0)."

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