The office of counseling services at William Jewell College recently took part in National Suicide Awareness week on campus, from Sept. 9th to the 15th, a week set aside to engage and inform on the pressing epidemic of suicide.
Tricia Hagar, director of counseling services, says that for suicide awareness week they provided a booth in the union for students and promoted the “Ask, Listen, Refer” program.
The “Ask, Listen, Refer” program is dedicated to education regarding suicide prevention, and Jewell has been recently utilizing their sources. Their mission focuses on helping college students be able to identify those at risk of suicide, recognizing factors, warning signs and showing the general public how to get and receive necessary help.
“We sent out email to all students about this, partnering with residence life with ‘Ask, Listen, Refer’ to promote and push the program out that way. Our primary focus of this month was pushing [suicide awareness] out into the residence halls,” Hagar said.
This week brings up very real problems, especially for college students. Suicide is the second largest cause of death for young people ages 10-34 and is something that some Jewell students have struggled with personally.
Cara Ellman, senior music performance major, is one of Jewell’s students striving to make a difference for its community. Currently a support group is in its pilot stages for students on campus who struggle with mental health issues, disorders, stress and even substance abuse problems. Ellman, Hagar and other students are working together to make the group a regular and popular thing.
“A lot of people feel like it is a sign of weakness to get help or that they aren’t sick enough to seek help.” Ellman says. “[The group] will be a place for everyone on campus who wants to be there.”
Hagar also spoke about what students can do to reach out to others about this pressing issue.
“Students can take the ‘Ask, Listen, Refer’ program, it will give you skills and strategies on how to talk to someone you think might be suicidal. We can also decrease the stigma around mental health issues and struggles so that people may be willing to talk about their own.”
While breaking down the wall of stigma may be a difficult and long process for the rest of the nation, it is definitely something that can start at Jewell’s campus.
“Suicide is mostly a thing that is preventable. Knowing questions to ask empowers individuals to have the necessary skills to assist friends in need, and knowing when to reach out to a mental health professional,” Hagar said.
While suicide prevention week may be over, the reality of suicide is not. The importance of being aware and having discussions is still a concern, especially on the William Jewell campus.
Jewell’s counseling services are located in Yates-Gill Union room 216, the national hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK and the 24 hours crisis hotline number is 1-800-395-2132. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal behaviors and thoughts, please reach out to a health professional.
Photo courtesy of William Jewell College.