Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dennis Gilbride, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laura Shannonhouse, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Andrew Roach, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Daniel Crimmins, Ph.D.


Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death for college age students through young adulthood (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2016; Turner, Leno, & Keller, 2013). This age group experiences higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to the general population. Within this age group is a relatively under-studied sub-population – individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) who are increasingly attending college programs and are nearly twice as likely to develop mental health disorders than their peers. There is widespread recognition of the importance of suicide prevention programs for college students, yet there has been no systematic assessment of suicide or suicidal ideation among student with ID attending inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) programs. According to the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2005), individuals at risk are more likely to disclose suicidal thoughts to someone with whom they have a relationship (Barnes, 2001). The current study examined the potential of a standardized suicide prevention curriculum with IPSE staff who work closely with students with mild ID at increasing mental health and suicide awareness.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills training (ASIST) is a 14-hour, 2-day standardized, and manualized training designed to train people in the helping professions to identify and effectively intervene with people considering suicide (LivingWorks, 2013). In this study, ASIST was evaluated in the context of IPSE staff and their preparedness to deal effectively with individuals with disability who experience suicidal ideation.

This study evaluated the use of ASIST by IPSE staff with both suicidal and non-suicidal clients and examined how ASIST led measurable improvements in IPSE staff sensitivity, awareness, and intervention skills in responding to persons-at-risk, for both suicide and other significant mental health issues. This study assesses the retention of ASIST skills over a ten-week period. This is the first study to evaluate the utilization and generalizability of ASIST by IPSE staff in practice and over time.


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