New OU group hopes to prevent suicides on campus, spread awareness

A recently founded university group is hoping to promote suicide awareness within the OU community.

After several faculty members realized the need for suicide awareness at OU, they began Grizzlies Response: Awareness and Suicide Prevention (GRASP).

“Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students,” said Michael MacDonald, principal investigator of GRASP. 

“And the college campus is a place where such preventative interventions can reach a large number people.”

“Several professors realized the need for suicide awareness and prevention training after two students took their lives in two consecutive years at OU,” Erica Wallace, GRASP program manager, said.

The professors applied for the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. GRASP was awarded the grant September 2012.

MacDonald, along with professors Patricia Wren, health sciences; Lisa Hawley, counseling; and Dalton Connolly, social work, received the grant.

Hawley, who is also chair of the counseling department, said it is important, through interdisciplinary work on campus, to provide opportunities to engage in the prevention of health issues.

“As a mental health worker, I have experienced the impact of suicidal ideation on the individual, family and friends,” Hawley said.

“The overarching goal of the program is to prevent suicide by raising awareness and encouraging communication about suicide and mental illness,” Wallace said.

GRASP is implementing educational trainings for faculty, staff and students so they can learn how to recognize and respond to those who may be suicidal, according to MacDonald.

Much inspiration for this focus came via information from a campus-wide GRASP assessment this past winter semester.

Thirteen percent of survey participants, who included students, faculty and some staff, had considered taking their life in the past month, according to the report. Of those 13 percent, 90 percent were students.

“We also are attempting to integrate suicide prevention not only in the short term but also as an integral part of campus life for the long term,” Hawley said.

Wallace said GRASP is currently looking for students interested in providing training to other students, similar to a peer education model.

“Students who have an interest in suicide prevention, enjoy public speaking and can devote up to 10 hours per week should send me an email with their resumes and interest in the program,” Wallace said.


The GRASP website is available as a resource for all faculty, staff and students.