Editor's note: This article discusses mental health and suicide, which may trigger some readers.
Departments at West Virginia University like the Carruth Center play a crucial role when a student is found in a life-threatening situation. But what exactly happens to a student after an attempted suicide?
According to Carruth Center Director T. Anne Hawkins, many factors determine the procedure in these situations.
“Every situation is unique and we respond to each student with that in mind,” Hawkins said. “Our first concern is always the safety and welfare of the student and others who may be affected.”
Carruth’s response, in most cases, is immediate, but this ultimately depends on the location of the student and the communication exchange between the University and outside agencies.
Hawkins said University Police or Morgantown Police are immediately contacted—depending on the location of the student in need. But when students attempt suicide off-campus, communication efforts become increasingly challenging.
“When a non-UPD police officer or department encounters a situation off campus, the University may not receive information right away, or in some cases, at all,” Hawkins said.
If a student who is already receiving care from Carruth attempts suicide, Hawkins said they would continue that care after an incident or “help the student to receive more intensive care if appropriate.”
Hawkins said Carruth also help students outside of Morgantown access a health care provider in their community to “provide immediate, timely in-person care.”
Carruth's clinicians work closely with the WVU Parents Club to "help parents identify signs of distress" in their children. Likewise, the CARE team provides short and long term support to students and their families in crisis situations.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 1-800-273-8255.
The Carruth Center is currently “designed to provide emergency and short-term services” for students, which means those who need additional services or long-term care are often referred outside the University.
Referrals often lead to a longer wait period and increased prices on behalf of the student. But this is subject to change in the fall.
WVU is launching Healthy Minds University—an on-campus long term mental health clinic.
“Students who are seen at the Carruth Center, at WVU Medicine and/or are a new student who already receives mental health care at home may be referred to Healthy Minds U for psychiatric and psychological services,” Hawkins said.
Healthy Minds will be a collaborative effort between the Carruth Center, WVU Behavioral Medicine and other departments on campus.
In the past year, Carruth has witnessed a rise in counseling appointments and recently reported the highest increase in generalized anxiety disorder during the pandemic. Diagnosis anxiety disorders saw a significant increase as well.
There have been 13 attempted suicides on-campus in the past four years, according to University Police metrics. This number is likely higher as attempted suicides may go unreported.
While the University is often notified following a student suicide or attempted suicide, there is no running total of these incidents. According to Hawkins, keeping this data is “much more complicated than it sounds.”
Students can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting WVU to 741741, or they can call the Carruth Center at 304-293-4431.