A program designed to identify students at risk of suicide and get them the help they need is expanding to local post-secondary institutions.

The launch of Skills for Safer Living was announced Thursday at the University of Waterloo.

With $50,000 in provincial funding, the program aims to create suicide intervention groups at Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College.

“This resource is particularly targeted at students who are pretty far along the continuum of serious mental health concerns,” Waterloo associate provost Chris Read tells CTV News.

Read says many university students are away from home for the first time, and sometimes they’re unable to cope with the changes in their lifestyle – difficulty that can manifest in anything from “basic anxiety” to suicide contemplation.

He calls the extension of Skills for Safer Living, which is already present elsewhere in Waterloo Region, to students “fantastic” news.

Following several suicide attempts and stints in a hospital psychiatric ward, Rondi McFarlane credits Skills for Safer Living with helping her fight the mental health issues with which she was dealing.

“It was great to be able to not feel alone,” she says.

“For the first time, you’re sitting in a group with other people who have had suicide attempts and talking about it.”

Now enrolled in Conestoga’s social work program, McFarlane is glad to hear the program is being made available for students.

So too is Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy, who was also on hand for Thursday’s announcement.

“It’s a matter of catching it early on, helping them cope with their problems, preventing the potential of a suicide attempt and hospitalization,” Milloy said, adding that in addition to helping students and taking pressures off the health care system, the program also helps keeps students in the education system.

Whether they want to make use of Skills for Safer Living or not, McFarlane has one piece of advice for students who may be contemplating suicide.

“Don’t isolate. Tell somebody. If they don’t feel you or you don’t feel like you’re being heard, then go to somebody else,” she says.

“You will find that one person who will really hear what you have to say.”