Elm Staff Writer
In remembrance of those who completed suicide, the Counseling Center and Washington College held a candle light vigil in Martha Washington Square on Sept. 19.
Those in attendance included students, faculty, and administrative staff. Speakers at the event touched on how individuals and communities can honor those who have passed by suicide.
“This event and other[s] like it gives our community the chance to heal these feelings and memories in a safe environment, surrounded by others who care,” senior Abigail Burnett said.
This September, WC participated in the nationwide effort to bring awareness to and remember those who have lost their lives to suicide during what is nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention Month.
Mental health is a major issue, especially among teens and young adults, in the United States. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among college students in America, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information under the National Institutes of Health.
In a survey conducted by Dr. Cindy Liu, director of the developmental risk and cultural disparities program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, she found that among the 67,000 students her team surveyed, over 20% said they experienced mental health-related problems, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts or attempts, according to a CBS News article by Steven Reinberg.
Discussing suicide can be triggering for those who have lost friends or family to completed suicide. While it is a delicate discussion to avoid causing more mental trauma, it is an important one to have on campus, according to Director of the Counseling Center Dr. Miranda Altman. Starting a conversation about suicide is one of the many obstacles that colleges are trying to overcome.
“We try to do everything we can to bring awareness. Just to be able to talk about suicide, to say the word is important,” Dr. Altman said.
The stigma around suicide persists today. Friends and family are unsure of how to help those struggling with mental health, according to the CBS News article.
WC acknowledges that students might be deterred from seeking help for peers they suspect are suffering from mental health issues. To address this obstacle, the College created the CARE System, according to Dr. Altman.
The CARE System is an early intervention program that allows students to anonymously share and report concerns they have about a peer.
Students can access CARE report forms online at the Counseling Center, Health Services, or Student Affairs webpages. The system is managed by Student Affairs.
Reports are not limited to mental health worries, they also include physical health, academic issues, familial issues, relationship violence, sexual assault or harassment, and discrimination. Depending on the nature of the report, it will be forwarded to either Counseling Services, Health Services, Academic Skills, Disability Access, or the Title IX Coordinator Candace Wannamaker.
The CARE System is not meant for emergencies or immediate concerns about self-harm or harm towards others. All cases with an immediate threat or worry should be reported to Public Safety, according to the WC website.
“We want to keep our campus safe. We want to make sure that students who need care and are suffering get the help that they need,” Dr. Altman said.
During the second half of the 2020 spring semester, WC will offer a new one-credit course on resilience. The course will meet twice a week and is focused on teaching students how to regroup after disappointment and trauma, effectively communicate, and personally manage distress. It will be administered by Dr. Altman.
With mental health issues becoming more prevalent among college students, WC started to engage with the discussion on suicide and student outreach.
The Counseling Center said that it hopes students and faculty members will act as the eyes and ears for the College community to help those who may be suffering.
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.
There are national resources students can call as well, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Resources focused on veterans can be reached by pressing 1 after calling the Lifeline or by texting 838255.
The Crisis Text Line is available by texting “HOME” to 741741. For resources focused on students of color, text “STEVE” to 741741.
If you are experiencing acute mental health distress, contact your RA, Area Coordinators, and/or call WC Public Safety at 410-778-7810.