Building a Campus Coalition for Mental Health & Suicide Prevention


Brian Kassar
Montana State University            
Staff Psychologist and Suicide Prevention Coordinator



Betsy Asserson


Betsy Asserson
Montana State University   
Director of Counseling & Psychological Services



Students, parents, and university stakeholders are often concerned about active shooter incidents and violence against others. While these are important topics to address, campuses are statistically much more likely to face incidents related to mental health crises, suicide attempts, and completed suicides. Data from the 2017 ACHA/NCHA survey show that almost 30% of students had experienced significant depression in the last year, and almost 10% had suicidal ideation. These are not individual issues—estimates are that over 100 students/staff are impacted by the completed suicide of one student. Additionally, there is a risk of suicide contagion in smaller communities that experience suicide. This topic is essential not just for clinicians, but for anyone working in administrative, preventive, student support, or security roles.

This presentation will focus on 5 areas to promote mental health services, decrease mental health crises, and respond to issues around suicide. BUILDING A MENTAL HEALTH COALITION: A campus-wide effort is necessary to implement a comprehensive mental health plan to increase awareness/utilization of services and decrease suicide attempts/completions. Learn which key stakeholders to include on a coalition to make strategic plans to address mental health issues and respond to campus crises, and how to utilize existing Behavioral Intervention Teams in this effort. SCREENING: Learn strategies for screening students to catch mental health issues early to prevent them from developing into crisis situations or more severe conditions. MEANS REDUCTION: Strategies for reducing access to lethal means to reduce the likelihood of impulsive suicidal actions will be addressed. GATEKEEPER TRAINING: Implement training on campus to teach students, faculty, staff, and parents how to recognize signs of suicide and how to refer for treatment. CREATING A CRISIS PROTOCOL: Learn how to create a campus-wide protocol to address these issues proactively, as well as how to implement a post-vention strategy to reduce suicide contagion and increase support for students in the wake of a campus suicide.

This presentation will discuss research and best practices for implementing the above strategies, as well as discuss the successes and struggles they’ve experienced on their own campus and within the university system. Facilitators will utilize a lecture format with audience discussion/questions to provide an informative, interactive discussion on this important topic.

As recipients of a Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) campus prevention grant, the presenters have received extensive consultation from SAMHSA and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and Jed Foundation. Dr. Brian Kassar is a licensed psychologist and Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Montana State University and brings 17 years of clinical, outreach, and prevention experience. Dr. Betsy Asserson is the Director of Montana State’s Counseling & Psychological Services, and has 16 years of experience as a clinician, training coordinator, and director of Clinical Services. Both have also served on the Montana University System/Board of Regents Mental Health Task Force to address these issues on all campuses in the Montana University System.


  • How to build a Coalition for Mental Health to ensure that student wellness and suicide prevention is everyone’s role, as well as to create a Campus Protocol for mental health crises that implements post-vention strategies to reduce suicide contagion.
  • How to reduce access to lethal means to reduce the likelihood of impulsive suicidal action.
  • How screening and gatekeeper training can increase referrals to treatment to reduce the likelihood of mental health issues evolving into crises or attempted/completed suicides.

Download Presentation File (PDF)



Full 2018 Conference Schedule