Suicide Prevention Week Seeks to Promote Awareness

edited.SuicideVigil_RebeccaKanaskieBy Erica Quinones

Elm Staff Writer

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 9 to 15, the Counseling Center hosted several outreach events.

On Monday, Sept. 10, around 50 students attended the candlelight vigil held in Martha Washington Square. Director of Counseling Services Dr. Miranda Altman gave opening remarks before the McClain Victory Bell was rung, followed by a moment of silence. The executive board members of Active Minds, a mental health club on campus, then began a conversation.

Some therapy dogs from the non-profit Pets on Wheels (Puck, Logan and Griff) were also at the vigil. According to Skylar Landis, Logan’s handler, they provide a comforting alternative.

“They are easy to talk to and non-judgmental. Students may be missing their personal dog or just need some neutral shoulder to lean on which is where a therapy dog can step in,” Landis said.

There are also therapy dogs on campus every first and third Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and every second and fourth Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.

Several students spoke, discussing the need to reach out, to destigmatize mental illness, and to get help. Sophomore Sarah Bowden performed a spoken word piece about recognizing suicidal thoughts. The vigil was formally closed with words about communal unity.

After it ended, many stayed behind to comfort one another.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, a table was set up outside the Egg with information on suicide prevention and helpful services. Inside, students were asked to write messages of hope. These sentiments were printed either on a canvas or individual sheets of paper to form a hope-chain.

“We want to work from a position of positivity. It’s important for people to share how they stay hopeful because we all have periods where we’re challenged. Life is really hard; the human condition is hard,” Dr. Altman said.

At the end of the week, participants and organizers reflected on the events. One student volunteer, freshman Delilah Jones, was positive.

“I think it made the necessary impact,” Jones said.

Dr. Altman was also positive but believed the events were about more than education.

“I think students want to be part of the work to make more awareness. It’s important for students to feel they have a voice and that they can enact something that helps other students,” Dr. Altman said.

Dr. Altman stressed the importance of awareness as mental wellness applies to many students learning to navigate life on their own.

“Sometimes students don’t know how to bounce back from disappointment. Sometimes they need strategies and help coping with things we all experience. They’re common themes for people who go to college,” Dr. Altman said.

While she recognizes the significance of student engagement, she believes there is more to be done.

“Until we have every student participating in mental health awareness and suicide prevention, we are not doing enough. Everyone has to be involved in promoting this and being able to talk about this,” Dr. Altman said.

If you are experiencing a difficult emotional period, make an appointment with Counseling Services by calling 410-778-7261. It is located adjacent to Health Services in Queen Anne’s House. Operating hours can be found on the WC website, but counselors are available after hours by appointment or in an emergency. Counseling is free for enrolled students and is confidential.

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