MAISHA RUMMAN Why hold Suicide Prevention Week on campus? Are there students on campus who consider suicide?
It turns out that approximately half of the college student population has thought about suicide at some point in their lives and 18% of undergraduate students have seriously considered making a suicide attempt. Thankfully, suicide is preventable and there are steps that everyone can take to help anyone who may consider suicide in earnest. Suicide Prevention Week is held every year at the end of September by the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC).
“It’s important to have a Suicide Prevention Week on campus so that every year there’s a call to action for faculty, staff, and students to become aware of and involved in this life saving issue facing our students,” CMHC Suicide Prevention Coordinator Marian Trattner said.
For the first time ever, Trattner made a Suicide Prevention Week Planning committee composed of mostly student volunteers to help with planning the week. Katie McDermott, a Psychology major who has been a part of this committee since early summer, said she got involved with this week because of a past experience:
“I got involved with Suicide Prevention Week because one of my best friends in high school died by suicide my senior year. The whole situation was devastating and I wanted to help people feel more comfortable about talking about depression and suicide, because having a conversation in itself is therapeutic. It can really help you or your friends.”
This year’s Suicide Prevention Week showcased events focused on battling the stigma associated with talking about mental health, the importance of listening to others going through a tough time, how to recognize suicide warning signs, and practicing self-care. Below are a few event highlights from Suicide Prevention Week.
Kick Back Against Stigma: A Kickball Tournament for Suicide Prevention
The kickoff event for Suicide Prevention Week focused on the theme of “kicking” the stigma associated with talking about mental health and suicide. All donations secured from the event went to the Brian L. Harlan Memorial Endowment to fund suicide prevention programming on campus. The endowment was created in honor of Brian Harlan, a UT student who died by suicide. Brian’s sister, Kendall, gave the opening talk at the kickoff event.
Many people avoid talking about suicide because of the stigma. However, avoiding this issue and allowing the stigma to persist prevents students from expressing their fears and struggles. If students don’t have a safe platform to talk about their issues, there is no way for others to notice that they are struggling and provide help.
On Monday of Suicide Prevention Week, the first #IWillListenUT twitter campaign at UT was launched. The concept is simple: post on any social media and pledge to listen if a friend or anyone around you is going through a tough time. The main objective of this campaign was to let students know that they are not alone and there is a whole community and resources available on campus should any student need help.
@rachel_grace33 I pledge to listen to any Longhorn (or not!) who needs someone to talk to. #IWillListenUT
@PrakritiSocrate i promise to always be an active and understanding listener and promise to always be there for anyone who needs to talk. #IWillListenUT
@MissyBroaddus #IWillListenUT you don't have to do this alone
Be that one that helps a friend: Suicide Prevention Workshop
The Suicide Prevention Workshop focused on educating students about the prevalence of suicide, warning signs, and how to help someone who may be thinking about suicide. This workshop also discusses how to talk to a friend who displays warning signs. For example, it’s best to directly ask a friend if they’re thinking about suicide instead of dancing around the topic and not being direct.
If you would like to bring a Be That One: Suicide Prevention workshop to your classroom, department, or student organization, contact Marian Trattner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (512) 475-6962. To learn more about the warning signs and how to help a friend, visit the online website for the Be That One Program, a CMHC Suicide Prevention program.
For the self-care day event, free yoga sessions and the Mobile Mind Body Lab were provided to students. The Mobile Mind Body Lab teaches students how to exercise deep breathing and meditation.
Help is available. Here are some on and off campus resources offered:
- Counseling and Mental Health Center: 512-471-3515
- UT Telephone Counseling (24 hours/day, 7 days/week): 512-471-2255 (CALL)
- Behavior Concerns Advice Line (24 hours/day, 7 days/week): 512-232-5050
- The University of Texas at Austin Police Department (for emergencies)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline (off campus): 1-800-273-8255