Student Life

Anthony Sbalbi

Dean of Student Services

Student Affairs

Frost 224

413.552.2391 (Tel)

Renee Tastad

Interim Asst VP, Student Affairs & Dean, Enrollment Mgmt.

Enrollment Management

Frost 221

413.552.2296 (Tel)

Suicide Prevention

Holyoke Community College has in place a student suicide prevention policy designed to protect the health and well-being of students by having procedures in place to identify, assess the risk of, intervene in, and respond to suicidal behavior. This policy is intended to help students obtain the support and services necessary in order to have a safe, secure, and successful academic experience. Explore the dropdowns below to read the policy in full, and to view frequently asked questions. 


Please click here to view a PDF of the student suicide prevention protocol FAQs.

Why implement a student suicide prevention protocol?
What is my role as a faculty or staff member with respect to the student suicide prevention protocol, and how can I help a student?
What happens after I follow the protocol?
Will there be professional development opportunities I can attend?
Are all 15 Massachusetts community colleges required to implement the protocol?
Where can I get more information about the Behavioral Intervention Team?
Who do I contact if I have more questions about the protocol?

Why implement a student suicide prevention protocol?

In the case of Nguyen vs. MIT, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determined that colleges and universities have a "special relationship" with their students, including an affirmative duty to take "reasonable measures" to prevent a student's suicide, "where a university has actual knowledge of a student's suicide attempt that occurred while enrolled at the university or recently before matriculation, or of a student's stated plans or intentions to commit suicide."

The Massachusetts Community College General Counsel's Office developed the student suicide prevention protocol to ensure that all Massachusetts community colleges are taking the necessary steps to help prevent student suicide.

According to many suicide prevention organizations, suicide is preventable. In a July 2018 communication titled "Suicide Prevention," the National Association of Behavioral Intervention Teams highlighted the growing number of suicides across the nation. From veterans to college students, suicide rates have increased significantly over the past 20 years. Yet, many suicide prevention organizations agree that suicide is preventable. For more information on student suicide prevention, please visit the following organizations:

What is my role as a faculty or staff member with respect to the student suicide prevention protocol, and how can I help a student?

Know your HCC resources

  • Campus Police: In an emergency immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone.
  • WellConnect Student Assistance Program: 24/7 confidential counseling support at 866.640.4777; three free in-person counseling visits with one of over 300 area providers.
  • Behavioral Intervention Team: Faculty and staff who are concerned about an individual’s behavior should contact the BIT, which was created to assess the behavior of individuals of concern and make appropriate referrals prior to these behaviors rising to a threat level. The team is chaired by Dean of Students Tony Sbalbi, 413.552.2390 or tsbalbi@hcc.edu.

If you know and are comfortable talking with the student:

  • Ask! It is okay to ask someone if they are having suicidal thoughts or feelings.
  • Take the conversation seriously.
  • Listen intently and respond empathetically.

According to the Student Suicide Prevention Protocol, you must act if you become aware of the following:

  • An active suicide attempt (on or off campus): Immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone. Then contact the Tony Sbalbi, dean of students immediately at 413.552.2390. If the dean of students is not available, contact the designee, Renee Tastad, interim vice president of Student Affairs at 413.552.2296.
  • Previous suicide attempt: Contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students, at 413.552.2390 or tsbalbi@hcc.edu. If the dean of students is not available, contact Renee Tastad, interim VP of Student Affairs at 413.552.2296 or rtastad@hcc.edu.
  • Stated plans or intentions to commit suicide: Immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone. Then contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students immediately at 413.552.2390. If the dean of students is not available, contact the designee Renee Tastad, interim vice president of Student Affairs, at 413.552.2296.
What happens after I follow the protocol?

In an emergency, campus police will begin the student suicide prevention protocol by contacting the student's emergency contact, performing a wellness check, and/or engaging other emergency protocols to ensure the safety of the student. Before returning to their studies, the student may be required to provide documentation from a health professional that they are ready to return.    

In a non-emergency, the dean of students and the BIT team will discuss reaching out to the student to assure the student has a support network. Campus police or the dean of students may do a wellness check and/or contact the student's emergency contact. 

Will there be professional development opportunities I can attend?

The following gatekeeper training will be provided throughout the year. Dates/times will be published soon.  

QPR Gatekeeping/MA DPH Training for Suicide Prevention

QPR is an acronym for "Question. Persuade. Refer." As a gatekeeper, you will learn how to recognize signs of suicide, know how to offer hope, and know how to get help and save a life. This approach to suicide prevention relies on applying network theory, i.e., the person most likely to prevent a person from taking one's own life is someone the person already knows. Learn how to recognize and respond to suicide warning signs. "Ask the question, save a life."

USA Suicide Statistics, 2017 (via QPR Institute)

  • 47,000 deaths annually are attributed to suicide. It is a leading cause of death.
  • 1 suicide occurs every 11 minutes or 129 suicides every day
  • 6,252 young people (age 15-24) die by suicide each year at a rate of one suicide every two hours.
  • Estimates of attempted suicide: 25 attempts for each documented death. Note: 47,000 suicides translated into 1,200,000 attempts annually.

HCC Training Dates/Times

Wednesday, March 6 (noon – 1 p.m.) FR 309
Thursday, March 21 (9 – 10 a.m.) FR 309
Monday, April 1 (4 – 5 p.m.) KC 302

Bridget Thompson, MPH, NBC-HWC
HCC Health Educator
QPRI/MA DPH Gatekeeper Certified Instructor
and Tony Sbalbi, Dean of Students

Are all 15 Massachusetts community colleges required to implement the protocol?

Yes. The protocol is required system-wide.

Where can I get more information about the Behavioral Intervention Team?

Please visit the Behavioral Intervention Team page for more information.

Who do I contact if I have more questions about the protocol?

For questions about the suicide prevention protocol, contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students, at 413.552.2390 or tsbalbi@hcc.edu.

Please click here to view a PDF of the student suicide prevention protocol.

PURPOSE

The purpose of this protocol is to provide education and guidance to faculty, staff, students, and other members of the college community to help prevent student suicide. All suicidal behavior or threats should be taken seriously and immediately referred in accordance with this protocol. In the case of an emergency, immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone.

DEFINITIONS

Suicide: Death from an injury which is self-inflicted and by which the student intended to kill him/herself.

Suicidal Behavior: Any potentially injurious behavior which is self-inflicted and by which a student intends, or gives the appearance of intending, to kill himself or herself.

Suicidal Ideation: Any self-reported thoughts or feelings about engaging in suicidal behavior.

Suicide Plan: A proposed method of self-inflicted injury through which the potential and intentional outcome is death.

Active Suicidal Ideation with Specific Plan and Intent to Act: Thoughts of killing oneself with details of plan fully or partially worked out and student has some intent to carry it out.

Active Suicidal Ideation with Some Intent to Act, without Specific Plan: Active suicidal thoughts of killing oneself and student reports having some intent to act on such thoughts, as opposed to "I have the thoughts but I definitely will not do anything about them."

Actual Knowledge: The direct and clear awareness of a fact or circumstance, as opposed to constructive (inferred or implied) knowledge. What a person "must have known" as opposed to "should have known."  

PROTOCOL

This Protocol shall be followed in the event a college employee has actual knowledge that a student:

  1. Is actively engaged in suicidal behavior;
  2. Has engaged in suicidal behavior previously while enrolled at the college or recently before matriculation ("matriculation" should be interpreted broadly and not be limited to full-time students); or
  3. Has stated plans or intentions to commit suicide, including active suicidal ideation with specific plan and intent to act or active suicidal ideation with some intent to act, without a specific plan.

Where the college has actual knowledge that a student has engaged in suicidal behavior and is currently hospitalized, these protocols shall be activated (under procedures for Previous Suicidal Behavior) in the event the student seeks to return to the college.    

  • Active Suicidal Behavior
    • Any member of the college community who has actual knowledge that a student is actively engaged in suicidal behavior shall immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone.
    • Then contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students immediately at 413.552.2390.  
    • If the dean of students is not available, contact the designee, Renee Tastad, interim vice president of Student Affairs at 413.552.2296.
    • The dean of students, or the designee, shall attempt to contact the student's emergency contact of record or another emergency contact identified by the student.
    • A student who has engaged in active suicidal behavior shall be required to be assessed by a licensed mental health professional and provide documentation per the college's Re-Entry Policy. Documentation will be reviewed by the dean of students, or designee, and/or the college's BIT.  
  • Previous Suicidal Behavior
    • Any member of the college community who has actual knowledge that a student has engaged in suicidal behavior while enrolled at the college or recently before matriculating shall contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students immediately at 413.552.2390.  
    • If the dean of students is not available, contact the designee, Renee Tastad, interim vice president of Student Affairs at 413.552.2296.
    • Based on the information received, the dean of students, or designee, shall determine whether the protocol should be activated. In doing so the dean or designee may attempt to meet with the student and/or consult with the college's BIT.
    • If the protocol is activated, the dean of students, or designee, shall attempt to contact the student's emergency contact of record or another emergency contact identified by the student.
    • The dean of students, or designee, may further consult with the college's BIT to determine an appropriate medical referral, help identify support strategies, and/or develop a follow-up action plan for the student.
    • When it is determined that a student has engaged in suicidal behavior while enrolled at the college or recently before matriculating, the student shall be required to be assessed by a licensed mental health professional and provide documentation per the college's Re-Entry Policy. Documentation will be reviewed by the dean of students, or designee, and/or the college's BIT.  
  • Active Suicidal Ideations with Stated Plans or Intentions
    • Any member of the college community who has actual knowledge that a student has stated plans or intentions to engage in suicidal behavior shall immediately contact campus police at Ext. 2211 from an on-campus phone or 413.552.2211 or 911 from any other phone.
    • Then contact Tony Sbalbi, dean of students immediately at 413.552.2390.  
    • If the dean of students is not available, contact the designee, Renee Tastad, interim vice president of Student Affairs at 413.552.2296.
    • Based on the information received, the dean of students, or designee, shall determine whether the protocol should be activated. In doing so the dean or designee may attempt to meet with the student and/or consult with the college's BIT.
    • If the protocol is activated, the dean of students, or designee, shall attempt to contact the student's emergency contact of record or another emergency contact identified by the student.
    • The dean of students may further consult with the college's BIT to determine an appropriate medical referral, help identify support strategies, and/or develop a follow-up action plan for the student.
    • When it is determined that a student has stated plans or intentions to engage in suicidal behavior, the student shall be required to be assessed by a licensed mental health professional and provide documentation per the college's Re-Entry Policy. Documentation will be reviewed by the dean of students, or designee, and/or the college's BIT.  

State law/student suicide 2018 SJC decision/protocols 6-14-18-#t
Revised 11-19-18-#t
Revised 12-7-18-#t

Anthony Sbalbi

Dean of Student Services

Student Affairs

Frost 224

413.552.2391 (Tel)

Renee Tastad

Interim Asst VP, Student Affairs & Dean, Enrollment Mgmt.

Enrollment Management

Frost 221

413.552.2296 (Tel)