Suicide prevention week events at UConn
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 00:09
This week Counseling and Mental Health Services presents Suicide Prevention Week, a weeklong event that strives to reach out the students on the issue.
The annual event was created seven years ago by the former director of CMHS Barry Shreier to promote outreach on mental health issues and takes place every September, coinciding with the national suicide awareness month. The week is a collaborative effort between many on-campus organizations including Residential Life, Student Health Services, Veteran Affairs and Active Minds, creating a coalition that hopes to bring more awareness and prevention skills to campus.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the highest risk for suicide. College campuses, comprised of this demographic, often are the scene of suicide due to the often overwhelming course requirements, economic troubles and pressures to succeed. Because of this unfortunate reality, CMHS and its coalition offer a suicide prevention-related activity every month to keep the university’s mind on prevention throughout the year.
The multitudes of services offered by CMHS are a resource to UConn students and Suicide Prevention Week aims to highlight those resources, educate students on prevention and honor those who have struggled with suicide.
Each year the week focuses on a different mental health and suicide-related issue. This year, because CMHS is neighbors with Veteran’s Affairs in their new Arjona location, the service chose to focus on student veterans while also focusing on the underlying theme of breaking silence.
Elizabeth Cracco, the director of CMHS, said “This week we are focusing on the particular struggle student veterans face. Their experience is very different from that of the average student.”
To honor this topic, Wednesday’s keynote speaker is Bryan Adams, a business student at Rutgers University who served for a year in Tikrit, Iraq. After suffering multiple wounds, he was awarded a Purple Heart but the effects of his service were long lasting. Adams was diagnosed with PTSD when he returned from combat and struggled to integrate back into society. Adams’ story will shed light on the mental health issues facing student veterans.
Other events that will occur throughout the week include the Field of Memory outside the Student Union, where students can plant a yellow flag to commemorate a victim of suicide or simply show solidarity. Following Adams’ keynote speech, there will be a memorial service on the Student Union terrace to commemorate those who have been lost.
The last event of the week will be a talk at the Rainbow Center on Thursday, September 26 at 12:00 p.m. The discussion, “Sexual Minority Youth and Suicide,” will be led by Episcopal Pastor Hilary Green and will delve into the mental health issues facing the LGBTQ population.
Throughout the week students can sign up for Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training, a nationally used suicide prevention tactic that teaches students to recognize the signs of suicide.
“I’m hearing more and more that students understand the warning signs of suicide,” Cracco said. Students can also attend the “Be Aware, Show You Care” art exhibit at CMHS and create their own artwork to support the cause.
Suicide Prevention Week, both locally and nationally, has been spreading awareness and slowly allowing people to open up about the once taboo topic of suicide. Cracco said, “We have this awareness that didn’t used to exist.”