Ask.Listen.Refer: a student guide

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The Ask. Listen. Refer. program is a suicide prevention and awareness initiative on William Jewell College’s campus.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and despite the small environment, students at William Jewell College can still be affected by this. Faculty at the Office of Student Life, including residence directors and residence assistants, have completed the program, but this year Jewell’s counseling services and Student Life have extended the program to the entire campus. The twenty minute program is titled “Ask. Listen. Refer.” and is organized by the Missouri Foundation for Health. Schools statewide use this online seminar to inform students about suicide causes and prevention.

The Director of the Office of Counseling and Health Services, Dr. Beth Gentry-Epley, hopes that all members of the Jewell community take the time to take the course in order to create a more aware campus. “There are things we can do to decrease the likelihood of suicide. It’s important to know how to get comfortable asking someone, and how to listen carefully and then make an effective referral,” Dr. Gentry-Epley said.

Throughout the course, the program details factors regarding suicide and its prevention. First, it describes the pressures college students face, such as academic standards and economic pressures, which can be factors exclusively experienced by college students. A better understanding of why suicide is a leading cause of death among college students is knowing and recognizing the major transitions college students experience. Then, the course lists risk factors and identifiers of suicidal behavior. Having the ability to identify these signs early is an essential step for prevention. A large part of the course is focused on how to address someone who shows risk factors for suicide. Often, students are able to see the signs, yet they do not feel comfortable discussing it. Many students believe if they ask someone about feelings of suicide, they may make the matter worse. The program and Dr. Gentry-Epley could not stress enough that this is not the case. “That just doesn’t happen. You don’t make someone feel suicidal if they weren’t suicidal in the first place,” Dr. Gentry-Epley said.  Finally, the course gives a list of available resources students can use for prevention and betterment. Between counseling services, Student Life and, in case of emergency, campus security, there are options students have, all of which are trained to help.

Because counseling services think that course holds obvious value for the Jewell community, they want to encourage the highest volume of student and faculty enrolling in the course as possible. In fact, having a friendly competition between residence halls has incentivized it. The residence hall with the largest amount of students completing the course by Sept. 30 will receive $500 towards their hall. It is also important to realize that just as much as students are encouraged to take this course, faculty is encouraged as well. It is important that as many members of Jewell as possible have the same understanding and basis in this area. By having similar information, the Jewell community has an easier time discussing and understanding this issue.

The Ask. Listen. Refer. program is easily accessible because of the Jewellverse initiative. It was bookmarked on every student’s iPad, becoming a reminder that taking the course is highly recommended.  Regardless if you were unable to meet the contest’s Sept. 30 deadline, taking the course is still beneficial. Students taking the responsibility in educating themselves in this topic could be a way to combat the second leading cause of death among college students.

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