PC Welcomes Cheryl Granai

by The Cowl Editor on October 26, 2017


By Thomas Edwards ’20

News Staff

Photo Courtesy of Cheryl Granai

Cheryl Granai, a mental health counselor with a background in nursing, has been hired by Providence College as the Coordinator of Outreach and Prevention in regards to suicide. Granai’s role is to “Sort of keep the project going,” and “contribute to some of the new and innovative trainings and programs we come up with along the way and identify where our needs are.” The project Granai is referring to is that of increased awareness of suicide prevention on PC’s campus.

Granai will also be involved with reaching out to the PC community as well as other colleges in Rhode Island who did not receive the grant but wanted to be involved with the project.

She is working with Dr. James Campbell, assistant vice president for student development and compliance, on the Garrett-Lee-Smith Grant here at PC. Campbell wrote the grant last fall, submitted it in December, and in May PC was awarded the grant.

Since May, they have been “ramping up and moving in a number of directions simultaneously,” said Campbell. The College has begun to receive funding in the last few weeks. The grant is described as follows: Providence College will establish a comprehensive, integrated wellness promotion and suicide prevention program, offering a full spectrum of preventative interventions, ranging from the individual to the ecological.

Commenting on the goals of the grant and project, Campbell stressed  the focus on prevention. “The goal includes helping students develop the skills and resilience, the capacity to regulate emotion and move through challenges and crises, and sometimes with help but also having more of a sense of self advocacy— ‘I can do this.’” Campbell went on to say, “It is hard to hire enough counselors and psychologists to cover the need.”

Regarding spotting signs of distress and reacting appropriately, Campbell believes that psychology is at the point where they finally have “the knowledge, research, and ideas to help people do that.”

Campbell and Granai would like to try and implement that here at PC, making sure they cover all corners of campus so that all students, whether they be new students, seniors, LGBTQ, black, white, student athletes, and everything in between, have a sense of belonging on campus and a place to go if they need help.

Granai and Campbell hope to give all students access to someone who can support them, while also helping students, faculty, and staff be able to recognize when a peer is in distress and to be more confident in reaching out to them to help. “Usually when students are in distress, it’s peers who will become aware of it first,” said Campbell, “and so we want to provide more resources for those folks to feel ‘Okay, I know how to help them.’”

Granai went on to add that, in addition to prevention and coping, the project also looks to “work on more broader issues like healthy relationships, or how to be happy… which is a very big movement right now. This whole notion of happiness and how do you incorporate elements of that into your life, wherever you’re at.” The goal is to help students with their outlook on current situations in their life, and, as Granai said, “to sort of change the lense. To change your focus, as opposed to the focus on what’s wrong with this, the focus on what’s right with this and how has it been right in the past and how have I coped in the past.” Granai explains “a way of presenting material that’s hopeful.”

“It doesn’t ignore what we’re trying to do, which is to prevent suicide, but it also takes into account that we can’t solve all of this in a counseling session one on one because we don’t have those kinds of resources, and that most of the student body, 80 percent, won’t step foot in a counseling office. So, how do you help them? We’re looking at it to be specific and broad at the same time. And hopeful.” Granai, to clarify on their prevention goals, said, “Someone who is suicidal can be treated, and success with that treatment is very positive.”

Campbell added that most people who are suicidal suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, which is treatable. Often because of discouragement people with mental illnesses or suicidal thoughts do not seek treatment, so the project hopes that with increased awareness people will understand that a workable solution exists.

The project and grant will run from September 30, 2017 to September 30, 2020. At the end of the three years, Campbell and Granai hope to have a structure in place that, going forward, will be able to help students, faculty, and staff recognize signs of distress in peers, how to help them, and increase community awareness and support for students for years to come.

Granai says, “There’s a notion of sustainability. When you start developing programs, sort of train the trainer. If you have faculty doing the initial training, then you’ll train students to do the training and then you’ll have the students train [other students]. It’s a way of sustaining a program and making it sustainable over time when you are dealing with populations that are coming and going as they are here.”