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Matthew Wintersteen, director of the Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition, welcomes attendees at the 2019 Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News
Matthew Wintersteen, director of the Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition, welcomes attendees at the 2019 Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News

The 4th annual Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference

The Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference serves as a way to have conversations that can address the high rates of suicide among college students. 

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On May 30th and 31st, Thomas Jefferson University hosted the 4th annual Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference, back in the same location the first conference took place in back in 2016.

The annual conference grew out of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition, a collaborative organization with the goal of developing and implementing strategies to reduce suicides on college campuses, and also improve the overall wellness of students.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. While this remains true, college campuses across the nation have varying degrees of services and programs aimed towards addressing this.

During the conference's opening welcome, Matthew Wintersteen, a psychologist and director of the Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition, said this conference is "a very significant opportunity to have these kinds of conversations."

“This is a conference where we want to talk about working with every student," he added. "Diversity, different populations in terms of athletes, and student veterans, and all cultures."

Topics discussed during the breakout and plenary sessions of the two-day conference included culturally relevant suicide prevention programming for diverse students; providing outreach and support to students returning from a leave of absence; cultural anxiety; self-care for students exposed to trauma; suicide prevention for medical students; ways to address the mental health of student athletes, and much more. 

Featured presenters at the conference were Jordan Burnham, a public speaker with Minding Your Mind, an organization with the objective ending the stigma and destructive behaviors associated with mental health issues; and Daniel J. Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

The conference also included a student track where students were able to learn and share strategies on how to become effective leaders for suicide prevention and mental health promotion on their campuses. The student track was led by Ethan Fields, a campus advisor for the Jed Foundation's JED Campus program; Kell Wilkinson, a program manager with Active Minds; and Robyn Suchy, chapter manager at Active Minds. 

Other sponsors for the 2019 Higher Education Suicide Prevention Conference included organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention LifelineCrisis Text Line, The Renfrew CenterThe Quell Foundation, mdlogix, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and Kognito

This year's conference was represented by 94 campuses and 26 states across the country, which shows significant growth from the 70 campuses and 9 states represented during the first conference.

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