Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the University Counseling Center provides up to eight free counseling session. This is incorrect. The story has been updated to reflect the fact that sessions at UCC are all free and available to all students. There are no session limits.
Each September, mental health professionals and organizations recognize National Suicide Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to making strides in breaking the stigma surrounding suicide and encouraging those struggling with mental health issues to make the often tough decision to ask for help.
Because suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, it is especially important to provide people with more information about the issue. Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the Psychological Services Center Kristin Austin believes that having a designated Suicide Prevention Month makes it easier to talk about suicide and its forewarnings.
“Suicide Prevention Month helps inform everyone about potential warning signs in their friends, family and colleagues that should be taken seriously as well as reduce the stigma of seeking treatment when a person is struggling and contemplating suicide,” Austin said. “It’s important for everyone to know how to ask about suicide in a caring, nonjudgmental way, how to keep people safe, what resources are available and when to get help.”
A major aspect of this month is making sure people are able to recognize when it is time to seek help, whether it be for themselves or others.
“Signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health include withdrawal from activities they typically enjoy, increased irritability and a change in their typical functioning like drinking more, sleeping more or less, not spending time with friends and family or a drop in grades,” Austin said.
It is recommended to seek out additional support when previous coping strategies no longer work or when symptoms persist and affect everyday life. Director of the University Counseling Center Juawice McCormick elaborated on the opportunity Suicide Prevention Month provides.
“This month is an ongoing opportunity to remind us all that we matter, that help is available for all and that there are other solutions to our problems, other ways to manage and heal from the pain we are experiencing,” McCormick said.
Both the PSC and UCC provide therapeutic counseling for a variety of mental health concerns. The PSC allows graduate students in clinical training to provide supervised counseling for a sliding fee based on income, and the UCC provides free counseling sessions. Students and Employees have the choice of a graduate student or a licensed counselor at the UCC.
In addition to learning about the warning signs of suicidal ideation, there are other ways people can get involved in Suicide Prevention Month. UCC and the Active Minds organization are in the process of planning suicide prevention events.
Active Minds co-President Lily Langley elaborated on an upcoming journaling event.
“We are working on a journaling event where we will hand out suicide prevention resources and learn how to do reflective journaling,” Langley said. “This will be near the end of September, and we are hoping to have the exact date set by the end of the week.”
Although Suicide Prevention Month ends Sept. 30, the largest event people can participate in will be a 5K walk starting in the Grove on Oct. 15.
“(The UCC is) participating in the American Society for Suicide Prevention’s Annual Out of the Darkness Walk on Oct. 15,” McCormick said.
Those interested in the Out of the Darkness Walk can join the Active Minds team, register their own team or donate online. Both organizations encourage people to get involved as a way to honor those who have been lost to suicide and to support anyone struggling with mental health.
“We hold all of the victims of suicide in our hearts, and we hope that in sharing their stories and in having these uncomfortable conversations, we can encourage people to reach out for help when they are struggling,” Langley said. “Suicide Prevention Month reminds us that we are not alone.”