Suicide prevention training expanding to athletics department at Clemson University


COLUMBIA, SC – Every College student has their stresses.

Student athletes are no exception, with pressures coming from beyond the classroom.

“They’re always wanting to be their best in the classroom and on the field with their sports,” explained Crystal Fulmer, Associate Director for Alcohol and other Drug Initiatives in Student Health Services at Clemson University.

That’s why Clemson University is making sure no one is forgotten when it comes to mental health, including athletes.

This summer, coaches and others in the athletic department will be trained on suicide prevention tactics and education as part of their “Tigers Together” Initiative.

“This type of training is critical for not only athletic leaders and coaches and trainers and student athletes, but anyone on our campus because this could be a matter of life and death,” Fulmer said Thursday.

The initiative was brought to campus several years ago and funded by a grant, according to Fulmer, but as of October of 2018 was fully funded by the University.

Suicide is the second highest cause of death in college-age students, according to the American College Health Association.

According to Kristi Bussell, Assistant Director for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Initiatives at Clemson University, last year about 7 percent of Clemson students reported having suicidal thoughts.

Bussell explained that’s less than the national average, which is 12%, but it doesn’t mean students aren’t struggling.

“That’s still about 1600 students so, definitely an issue that we want to tackle,” she said.

Although Clemson University wouldn’t comment about how many suicides they’ve had on campus in recent years, a spokesperson for the school confirmed that the number of students referred to seek help for different crises and hardships skyrocketed over recent years.

These CARE referrals are filed due to issues including academic distress, behavioral concerns, family issues, physical health or well-being, death or grief, and other concerns.

In the past 6 years the number of referrals from faculty more than doubled.

Between July 1st of 2012 and June 30th of 2013, Clemson University recorded 742 referrals of students from faculty members.

Between July 1st of 2017 and June 30th of 2018, there were 1,579 referrals recorded.

7/1/17 – 6/30/18 → 1,579  (up 21% from previous year)

7/1/16 – 6/30/17 → 1,300  (up 17%)

7/1/15 – 6/30/16 → 1,113  (up 12%)

7/1/14 – 6/30/15 → 992  (up 13%)

7/1/13 – 6/30/14 → 875  (up 18%)

7/1/12 – 6/30/13 → 742

According to University spokesman Philip Sikes, the University had to nearly triple their staff of Clinicians over the past decade to keep up with the growing need for help.

“What we’re trying to share with the Clemson community is it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to be struggling with things, and it’s okay to get help,” said Bussell.

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