As the season shifts, leaves begin to fall – the stigmas associated with depression and anxiety following suit.
Sept. 8 marked the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week. Across the nation, people are speaking out in order to raise awareness in their communities.
The organization To Write Love On Her Arms raised awareness through its social media and blogs by promoting its message and encouraging people to share their stories of struggle and survival. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline encouraged people to join in the global candlelight vigil Tuesday, Sept. 10, which is National Suicide Prevention Day. Other organizations hosted 5K walks, seminars and workshops to raise awareness about the mental health declines that lead to suicide.
People often become familiar with the statistic “suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.” However, those affected by depression and suicide know all too well that these numbers are more than statistics, they are loved ones.
In America, every 13 minutes someone commits suicide. In 2010, Kentucky recorded 631 suicides. Despite the shocking statistics, suicide still remains a misconceptualized topic.
However, in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, a select few students, faculty members and University organizations have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness and make changes on campus to better the lives of the people in this community.
Murray State Counseling Services made information tables available in the Curris Center throughout the week. These tables included information pamphlets and suicide hotline cards to give to others.
“We don’t want students to feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to,” said Abigail French, director of the Murray State Women’s Center. “These suicide hotline cards give the students information about who to call and how to cope.”
In addition to the work that Counseling Services and the Women’s Center has put into making this week a success, professors and faculty have been on the lookout for students showing symptoms of depression.
“The University has done really well with letting students know there are resources out there for them,” French said. “We have had a ton of referrals this semester from housing, professors and the MAPs Work System. The faculty and staff are probably the biggest resource in directing students to the appropriate places.”
Students have approached Counseling Services with a new idea for a support group on campus. The Survivors of Suicide Support Group, led by Sarah Kerrick, is a group for people who are dealing with loss of a family member, friend or classmates to suicide.
According to Kerrick, the group intends to meet twice a month to provide a safe place for survivors to share their thoughts and feelings, as well as learn coping mechanisms.
In order to prevent students from becoming overwhelmed, other possible changes on campus include reforming the Transitions 099 classes. The career guidance classes are required for all freshmen and transfer students to graduate.
“I think we have a lot of students that come in who have never faced so much responsibility before,” French said. “The University has talked about reforming the classes to be more of a life skills class rather than career – oriented to help students talk about issues and responsibilities they have never had before. I think it is a really great way to get information out to every student that comes onto campus.”
According to Peggy Whaley, coordinator of advising in the office of Academic Affairs, the proposal for the idea will be brought to attention in the spring.
“We are still in the preliminary stages of the class,” Whaley said. “One of the key aspects of the class is we want to add a student success lab.”
So, as Suicide Prevention Week comes to a close, one message remains for people across the nation: do not be afraid to speak up and change the way people think of depression and suicide. These issues are common, especially in the lives of stressed college students. There are multiple free services available on campus as well as people willing to talk.
“I think in general, we have a really stressed out culture,” French said. “We are really overloaded, all trying to do a little bit of everything and spread entirely too thin. I think students learning to manage stress and prioritize things would help to prevent further issues.”
Story by Hunter Harrell, Assistant Features Editor