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Home > Research Articles > Web site provides mental health resources to students

CNN Headline News

Saturday, February 08, 2003

By Renay San Miguel

Ulifeline.org is a place for students and parents to get information that might help a suicidal student make a better choice.

(CNN) -- A child goes off to college, and with that child goes the dreams of his parents. For Phil Satow, those dreams were shattered in 1998 when his son Jed committed suicide while a sophomore at the University of Arizona.

"If I can prevent even one parent from having to suffer the way my wife and I did," Satow told "Hotwired," "then it would be a wonderful thing to avoid that pain."

Jed Satow lives on through the Jed Foundation, and the first result of that is Ulifeline.org, a new mental health resource for colleges and troubled students. Thirty colleges and universities offer the confidential service to some 500,000 students.

Satow makes it clear that Ulifeline.org is not a suicide prevention hotline, nor a provider of mental health services. The Web site is simply a place for students and parents to get information that might help a suicidal student make a better choice.

"It provides information for parents who are sending their kids to college and who have had certain high school issues, emotional issues they've had to deal with," Satow said.

Satow and Ron Gibori, executive director of Ulifeline.org, first worked on the technology that allows colleges to connect to the Web site. They then customized Ulifeline.org to what's available at that college's mental health center in a user-friendly fashion. The Web site is free, and is offered to colleges at no cost.

Gibori told "Hotwired" that what makes Ulifeline.org unique is that it was created by students, for students. "Having experienced this tragedy firsthand, we know how painful suicide can be, not only for immediate friends and family, but also for the student body at large," Gibori said. "As college students, we have a better perception of the intense pressures faced by our peers."

Even though students use their college ID number and a password to access Ulifeline.org, there is one part of the site that's open to any student anywhere who's having trouble navigating the stressful rapids of college life. It's an anonymous screening program developed at Duke University that tests for different emotional issues including suicide, depression, eating disorders, alcohol and drug problems.

The colleges and universities offering Ulifeline.org include the Universities of Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts (Boston), Southern California and Arizona. Another 50 or so have expressed interest, Satow said, and the American College Health Association has endorsed the service.

A quick look at some statistics compiled by a University of Chicago study may show why the ACHA has given its endorsement. The study showed that a thousand students over the next 12 months are likely to commit suicide on campus.

Ulifeline.org may already be forcing positive changes at the University of Arizona, Jed's former school, where the service has been in place for the past eight months. "There are a lot of kids walking around with depression, who would not be diagnosed," Satow said, "who are now going to the counseling center for diagnosis and treatment."