SUNY and Office of Mental Health Partner to Launch Crisis Text Line and Training Initiative to Help SUNY Community Promote Mental Health Awareness During COVID Pandemic

May 27, 2020

Albany – The State University of New York and the NYS Office of Mental Health today announced the launch of a crisis text line and training initiative, two resources designed to help promote mental health awareness, ease stress and anxiety, and identify and support individuals at risk of suicide. SUNY advanced its promotion of the resources in order to assist students, faculty, and staff as they confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Slowing the spread of COVID-19 has called for a series of sudden shifts to how we live, work, study, and interact," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "Though this transition is necessary to keep people safe, there may be an unintended, psychological impact of these changes on many of our students, faculty, and staff. We thank the New York State Office of Mental Health for their partnership in providing these resources to our SUNY family."

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "We are very pleased to provide financial support to our partners at SUNY to raise awareness of the programs and resources available to help students who are feeling anxious, depressed or overwhelmed. This is particularly important now as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and address the many disruptions it has caused. We understand how difficult this can be, and we want you to know that help is available."

Information about these resources is available at SUNY’s new mental health resource page found here. The first is a Crisis Text Line for students, faculty, and staff who are dealing with emotional challenges. Members of the SUNY community can access the confidential text line 24/7 by texting Got5U to 741-741 for help. The text line can be used to help alleviate depression, anxiety, stress, and suicidal thoughts. It also provides a way for people to talk about substance use, relationship issues, domestic violence, and school stressors, as well stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second resource is online Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training, designed to teach participants how to recognize someone who may be in emotional distress or having suicidal thoughts, and how to appropriately engage and connect that person to resources that can help. Anyone can practice QPR in any setting, and it is appropriate in all relationships. QPR does not require clinical training, only a willingness to listen, care, and help. Members of the SUNY community may register by going to and entering "SUNY" as the organizational code.

QPR and the Crisis Text Line are just two ways that SUNY is working to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic among its 64 campuses. All campus counseling centers remain open, and online education experts have been available virtually to alleviate concerns about the transition to online learning. All 64 SUNY campuses will be receiving marketing materials to promote the availability of QPR and Crisis Text Line services.

Both services are components of a partnership between SUNY and OMH, thanks to $3.68 million from the Garrett Lee Smith Grant that OMH received last year. OMH designated SUNY as one of the partnering institutions of a multi-year sub-award. The grant comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and is awarded to states and tribal nations for comprehensive youth suicide prevention efforts.

Garrett Lee Smith was the son of former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. The younger Smith died by suicide in 2003, shortly before he turned 22. A year later, President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and allocated $82 million to seed grants for suicide prevention.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34-year olds. For some people, the college years may be especially difficult. The onset of psychiatric conditions may coincide with new experiences at college that are often stressful, even distressing. Even before the pandemic, some studies found increases in depression, anxiety, and suicidality among college students.

In addition to QPR training and the Crisis Text Line, SUNY plans to use the grant to do outreach to college students who may be at risk of suicide; build a repository of mental health resources across the system; and implement and develop a best practices guide for responding to the occurrence of a suicide death.

About the New York State Office of Mental Health

The New York State Office of Mental Health promotes the mental health of all New Yorkers, with a particular focus on providing hope and recovery for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances.

OMH oversees a large, multi-faceted mental health system that serves more than 700,000 individuals each year. The agency operates psychiatric centers across the State and also regulates, certifies and oversees more than 4,500 programs, operated by local governments and nonprofit agencies.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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