UW-Eau Claire receives three-year funding grant to promote suicide prevention

The SAMHSA grant will provide $302,000 over the next three years, with UWEC matching that amount

Nick Porisch

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The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023


Jennifer Muehlenkamp is a professor of psychology and the creator and director of SPARC.

On Dec. 1, UW-Eau Claire announced the Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative had received a $306,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also known as SAMHSA.

The grant will be spread out across the next three years, with SPARC receiving $102,000 each year until 2024.

UWEC is also matching every dollar provided by the grant, bringing the total up to $612,000 over the course of the next three years.

Jennifer Muehlenkamp, professor of psychology and director of SPARC, said the increased funding from the grant will go toward continuing the suicide prevention programming in place, as well as expanding on the organization’s outreach programs and the direct services provided by campus counseling services.

“We’re trying to better coordinate some of the wellness-related programmings we do on campus so that we can reach more students,” Muehlenkamp said. “We’re also hoping to increase the number of mental health screenings that we do and provide more training for staff and faculty on campus.”

Ian Pongratz, a fourth-year psychology major and student volunteer for SPARC, said one of the main outreach programs SPARC runs are student-led training presentations that teach students and staff how to notice and prevent suicidal tendencies among the people they know.

“We’re training people to recognize warning signs,” Pongratz said, “so we can kind of create a built-in screen process in the campus community and prevent people from falling into suicidal behaviors.”

Pongratz said the training presentations are given in many different settings around campus, including clubs, sports teams, and even fraternities. The leaders of these organizations contact SPARC and request the presentation.

He also said they often give the presentations to classes around campus, which professors can request in lieu of a class day.

“If you’re interested in seeing our presentations, contact your professors and let them know,” Pongratz said.

Christina Prust, a health educator with the Office of Health Promotion, said she supervises and trains many of the students who work with SPARC, as well as helping out on outreach programs on campus.

According to Prust, the funding from the grant will sustain a number of measures SPARC already utilizes and allow them to build from there. Additionally, the student employees who work with SPARC are funded and receive their pay directly from the SAMHSA grant.

Prust also said she is excited to see UW-Eau Claire’s suicide prevention programs continue to grow and promote mental wellness on campus.

“This semester, we had the most requests for our suicide prevention training than ever before,” Prust said. “Our student workers have expanded our social media platform, and seeing other students engage with that has been really cool.”

Muehlenkamp said SPARC hosts different programs throughout each semester for students who are interested in getting involved with SPARC, and encouraged students to reach out to herself or Proust if they would like to learn more about how they can contribute.

“The goals of SPARC are to normalize seeking help when you need it, normalize talking about mental health, and break down the stigma that’s related to these issues,” Prust said. “We want to continue to open up a dialogue about mental health and suicide prevention.”

If you’re in need of help, reach out to UW-Eau Claire’s counseling services, or contact one of the text or hotlines below:

  • Northwest Connections Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-552-6642
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOPE to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • TREVOR (LGBTQIA) Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].