September is nationally known as Suicide Awareness Month. In honor of this, USD’s Student Counseling Center (SCC) held suicide prevention week from Sept. 10-16. The week started with the Field of Memories Exhibit.
Madison Harrington, the SCC’s prevention and addiction counselor, said it was a tribute to students who lost their life to suicide.
“This was one of the events where students could decorate a flag for someone that they’ve lost due to suicide, or write a inspirational message of hope,” Harrington said. “There was around 1,100 flags that represented the number of college students that died by suicide each year.”
SCC held another event on Sept. 15 called Holding Hope. This is where students could create luminaries, write messages of hope or in honor of a friend. Then they had a moment of silence for those who were lost.
Harrington said that mental health has a stigma around it, and the best way to fight it is to be open around it.
“The more we talk about it, and have an open dialogue with one another, could help end the stigma, as well as educating people. Even whether it’s professors, people on campus or just people in society in general,” Harrington said.
SCC also has concern forms for students who are concerned for their loved ones on campus.
“If someone is concerned about their classmate, friend or roommate, they can call the Student Counseling Center or write a form that’s anonymous,” Harrington said.
Sheila Johnson, a mental health counselor at the SCC, said they can assess students who are having suicidal thoughts and help based on their current situations.
“We just fully assess whether they’re having suicidal ideation, and it just depends on the level of where they’re at with those with those thoughts,” Johnson said. “If they just cannot make sure and ensure that safety, then we might have to look at some kind of a long-term treatment or just make sure that there’s some place where they can be safe, have some support and services put in place. We just have to provide them with the support of some friends or family and make sure that they have someone there with them to keep them safe and supportive.”
With the new location of the SCC, they offer a Zen Den, a place for students who need a place to decompress and relax.
“If someone needs a separate location or a space outside of their dorm they can come here and have a place of solace where they can relax… During the winter time we can really help the seasonal aspect disorder,” Harrington said.
Another resource for students is an organization, Lost and Found. Lost and Found is a nonprofit organization in USD. Their mission is to raise awareness about suicide and signs leading up to suicide.
Paige Pollreisz, the vice president of Lost and Found and a junior at USD, said they are very prevalent on campus and want to include everyone in their organization.
“We want to create an open environment across campus and just facilitate healthy communication about mental health,” Pollreisz said. “Hopefully we can curb that suicide rate and other factors.” If you are having suicidal thoughts please reach out to the SCC or call the 24-hour 988 suicide and crisis hotline. To learn more about suicide awareness from the SCC email them at [email protected] or visit online at https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/index.html.