The University Counseling Center hosted the third annual Candlelight Vigil for Survivors of Suicide on Thursday. The counseling center, as well as The Wellness Center of Oxford, Comunicare and Oxford Treatment Center all had tables with information on suicide prevention and counseling at the event.
Racheal McClain, a doctorate student worker for the counseling center, gave a presentation at the event.
The event was described as a memorial for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and those struggling with suicidal thoughts. Patrons were also encouraged to find information and resources for themselves.
“Being aware and ending the stigma is so important and our goal for tonight,” McClain said.
The vigil usually takes place in the fall but had to be rescheduled to spring because of COVID-19 guidelines.
“The event looks a little different, but it’s important for the community to know that we’re all here for them,” McClain.
Ashley Jones, a graduate school alumna, spoke at the vigil about her own experience with suicide. Jones worked for the counseling center and the Violence Intervention and Prevention office while in school, and she is now a counselor at the Oxford Treatment Center.
“I always get nervous at these things because saying doesn’t always do a whole lot, but being there for someone who is struggling does,” Jones said.
Jones’s father died by suicide in 2011, and she described her struggles since her loss. She said she believes that grief is a universal experience when it comes to those who are dealing with suicidal ideation or supporting those who are trying to overcome it.
“In the counseling world, we know that grief is the most difficult thing to manage. There is no intervention for it — no information we can give to say the situation will improve,” Jones said.
Though Jones said grief is something she continues to struggle with, she emphasized the importance of relying on those who are willing to support people who are struggling.
“I want to thank the survivors who came out and leaned into their own process and the supporters because without them none of us would be here,” Jones said.