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Clarion University, County Coalition Spotlight September Suicide Prevention Month

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Sara Laverick StewartCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Even a pandemic couldn’t stop suicide prevention support in Clarion County.

(Pictured above: Sara Laverick Stewart at Virtual Walk)

Although the month of September is Suicide Prevention Month, work and support of suicide prevention continue throughout the year because of the Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Clarion University wellness programs.

An annual suicide awareness walk was held this year in New Bethlehem, marching to Gumtown Park, but there was a twist.  Due to restrictions implemented by the Commonwealth, a decision was made to host the annual walk virtually and live-streamed on Facebook.

Walk participants at Gumtown Park.

Walk participants at Gumtown Park.

“It’s not the ideal awareness walk, but we were still eager to bring hope and awareness to those in Clarion County and surrounding areas,” said Susan LaBruzzo, Coalition vice-chair. 

“The goal of the walk was to raise awareness for suicide prevention in Clarion County and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide. The walk helps bring awareness to Suicide Prevention Month, National Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day.”

Suicide prevention is also an ongoing concern for the Center for Health and Wellness Services at Clarion University.

James P. McGee, Clarion University Center for Health and Wellness Services.

James P. McGee, Clarion University Center for Health and Wellness Services.

James P. McGee, director of the center located in Room 222 Becht Hall, explains the services available.

With the extensive renovation of Becht Hall, the Health and Wellness Services Center is located in a suite of offices. The integration allows Counseling Services, Health Services, Alcohol, and Drug Education, and Student Support Assistance is at a one-stop location that will enable them to share resources and make easier referrals.

“People in our counseling department are trained on QPR, which is a gatekeeper training for suicide prevention,” said McGee.

“QPR is Question, Persuade, and Refer. We train students and employees every year. We also have trainers and Mental Health First Aid that many of our employees.

“Our Behavior Assessment referral team meets every week, including members of the Center for Wellness, through Zoom (a popular Internet program that allows virtual meetings and programs), and we still reach out to students if we can’t reach out to him face-to-face.”

Clarion University, like every other educational facility in business in Pennsylvania, learned how to innovate when it was shut down in the red zone.  During the shutdown, classes were held virtually, and when Clarion opened in the fall, students were given the option of returning to Clarion or stay home. During this time, all classes are being offered virtually. When students return to Clarion, they can live in campus residence halls or off-campus rentals. All classrooms remain closed, but student-use buildings such as the library and the rec center remain open.

“It was up to them whether they wanted to come back or not,” continued McGee. “We don’t have the exact number this point, but we have students. We have some students living in campus housing and others living off-campus. I also work with the Good Neighbor Program and work with a lot of landlords, so I get numbers that way and getting overall total numbers is difficult.”

Lockdown required a different approach for classes and student services such as health and wellness.

“We have offered both through health services and counseling services, along with drug and alcohol education. We have offered a form of Zoom that’s confidential and allows us to do and offer Telehealth and Tele mental Health appointments via tele-counseling and telehealth.”

Students are taking advantage of the programs, according to McGee.

“We’ve had many students that did request an appointment. Some students don’t feel comfortable with wanting to do a mask meeting. We do virtual through confidential zoom, and it’s been beneficial. Offering these different types of ways to reach out and provide the needs for students has been beneficial.”

With the University Rec Center, one of the few campus buildings open for students and in use, it has also been adapted for use in person.

“We have games set up on the floor that they can go down and play table games and even wear their masks. We also have new software. It’s a gaming platform called Geeks.”


Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention advises seeking help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional.

  • Call Crisis or Clarion Psychiatric Center.
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • If safe to do so, remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects.
  • Take the person to an emergency room.
  • Crisis Number: 814-226-7223
  • Crisis Text: 63288

Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.  The focus of the coalition is on suicide prevention, awareness, and education.  The group provides help and hope through college campus and high school events, suicide crisis hotlines, and other educational programs.  

Depression is treatable.  Suicide is preventable.


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