A Mississippi State faculty member in the Department of Psychology is using nearly $1 million in federal grant funds to prevent alcohol and tobacco addiction in Oktibbeha County and prevent suicide among college students.
Michael R. Nadorff, associate professor of psychology and director of the department’s clinical Ph.D. program, recently received a five-year $624,385 grant, titled “Drug Free Starkville Collaboration,” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
SAMHSA also is funding a three-year, $305,000 grant for suicide prevention work at MSU.
“The two grants are a nice complement to each other due to the notable relation between substance use disorders and suicide behavior,” Nadorff said. “The Drug Free Communities funding will be an upstream intervention that will hopefully help us reduce the odds of suicide among adolescents and college students in the future.”
The substance abuse prevention grant—earmarked for work in Oktibbeha County—will foster a partnership between MSU’s Collegiate Recovery Community and local middle and high schools in hopes of preventing addictions before students face temptations in college.
“Our primary goal is to markedly reduce the use of alcohol and tobacco among local middle and high school students because we know that using these substances, especially early in life, can increase the odds of addition not only to alcohol and tobacco but also to other drugs,” Nadorff said. “Relatedly, a secondary aim of the project is training MSU students in how to intervene with youth, giving them the opportunity to help educate and mentor local middle and high school students so that these youth are hopefully able to make healthier choices.”
MSU’s CRC is a student group housed within the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness that focuses on university students in recovery from substance use disorders. For more information on the CRC, visit www.recovery.msstate.edu.
Mitchell Berman, professor and psychology department head, said the grant will support a collaboration between the university and the local community using a “harm-reduction prevention” strategy.
“Nicotine and alcohol use among youth can have significant and life-long health consequences,” Berman said, noting mental health personnel and resources have been “historically underfunded and inadequate” in Mississippi. “This program has the potential to help alleviate this critical gap in addiction prevention services to children in our state.”
Additionally, the newly funded suicide prevention grant will focus on MSU students, while complementing a $1,678,552 Garrett Lee Smith State Suicide Prevention Grant awarded last year that researches the prevention and response to youth suicide in the entire state. Assistant Clinical Professor Emily Stafford is a co-principal investigator for this grant with Nadorff.
“This additional award is specific for college campuses,” Nadorff said. “College students are at higher risk of suicide than their peers who are not in college. Further, those who are the highest achievers—your star athletes and students—are commonly at greatest risk.”
Nadorff said this new grant will enable him to build upon the existing suicide prevention work in order to create “a stronger, comprehensive suicide prevention program,” including the development of a new First Year Experience course, strengthening links between community and campus mental health providers, increasing opportunities for at-risk students to engage in meaningful volunteer activities, and reducing access to suicide means.
Nadorff received his bachelor’s degree in 2007 from the University of Notre Dame, his master’s degree in 2009 and Ph.D. in 2012 in clinical psychology, both from West Virginia University. He completed a doctoral internship at Baylor College of Medicine in 2012.
At MSU, Nadorff’s research interests include assessment and treatment of suicidal behavior, behavioral sleep medicine—particularly assessment and interventions for insomnia and nightmare disorders—and the use of technology for psychological treatment.