ISP for institutions of higher education

Colleges and universities, as well as medical and professional degree schools across the country, are using ISP to offer students a safe and confidential way to connect with campus mental health services.

Why do colleges and universities need ISP?

An estimated 15% of college students suffer from depression and other mental health conditions that put them at risk for suicide. More than half of all students with a mental health condition do not get treatment, even when symptoms persist for over two years. Over 85% of students who die by suicide never have contact with the campus counseling center. This is not just because at-risk students are unaware that campus services are available, but also because something in their life experiences, ways of thinking, or fears and concerns often prevent them from asking for help.

Reaching students before crises emerge, ISP provides a simple, convenient and safe way for students to learn about available services and connect with an experienced, caring campus-based mental health professional, who can help them more clearly identify the problems they are experiencing and work through their barriers to help-seeking.

How does ISP work?

Colleges and universities, and medical and professional degree schools partner with AFSP to receive their own fully customized ISP website, where students can:

  • Take a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  • Receive a personalized response from a campus counselor
  • Exchange messages with the counselor – ask questions and learn about available services
  • Get feedback and encouragement
  • Make an appointment at your counseling center

Outreach

Outreach is strategically planned according to clinical time available and when students would be more likely to take advantage of ISP. Your staff selects groups of students with low utilization of campus counseling services and those students are invited to participate in ISP. First time participants create a self-assigned User ID and password to anonymously take a brief Stress & Depression Questionnaire. Based on the answers to the questionnaire, the participant is classified into one of three levels of distress, known as tiers.

Connection

Within 24-48 hours, depending on the participants’ tier, your counselors log into the ISP website to review and respond to the questionnaire. Students receive a personalized response from a counselor staffed by each participating institution.

Engagement

Students review the counselor’s responses. Then, using ISP’s dialogue feature, counselors and students can exchange messages about available mental health resources and service offerings.

What makes ISP unique?

The personal connection made between students and counselors is the most important aspect of ISP. Students experiencing mental health concerns are often isolated, and may have fears or concerns about disclosing what they are going through. Some may have had negative experiences reaching out for help previously. Connecting with a counselor who is willing to listen and work together to address their concerns about seeking services can make all the difference.

Integral to a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategy, ISP makes it possible for counseling centers to extend help to students who are too often struggling in silence.

“If it weren’t for the anonymity in this process, I probably wouldn’t be considering any type of help right now.” — Undergraduate Student

Program findings

ISP has been extensively evaluated, and published studies have reported the success of the ISP. Findings include:

  • 85% of participants who completed the Questionnaire had serious depression or other suicide risk factors; 90% were not receiving treatment. Read more.
  • Those who exchanged online messages with the ISP counselor were three times more likely than those who did not come for an in-person meeting, and three times more likely to enter treatment.
  • 75% of participants who entered treatment were described by counselors as not likely to have sought professional help without the ISP. Read more.
  • 27% of students, residents and faculty who participated in the ISP at a leading medical school were found to be at significant risk for depression and suicide; 48% of this group received referrals for further evaluation and treatment from the ISP counselor. Read more.

How can I bring ISP to my campus?

ISP is currently being implemented at a variety of higher educational settings, including community colleges, undergraduate, graduate, medical or other professional programs. In addition to students, the program has been adapted for use with medical residents, staff or faculty.

Mental health services and clinical personnel provided by each institution are required for ISP implementation. As part of the implementation process, our team will work with you to integrate ISP into your mental health programming and campus outreach efforts.

Institutions of higher education license ISP for a 3-year program term and provide the clinical staff to support the program. The license provides:

  • Dedicated AFSP staff to support program implementation
  • Ongoing technical support
  • Customized ISP website
  • Counselor training in all program functions
  • Assistance with data reporting and evaluation

Complete the interest form, and ISP staff will contact you to discuss how ISP can be implemented as an integral part of your college or university’s mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts.

For questions, please contact the Program Director at isp@afsp.org.

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