Suicide Awareness

Movements at Universities to Raise Suicide Awareness

Universities throughout the nation have been trying to increase suicide awareness among students, as suicide is an ever-growing problem in America.

Approximately 1,100 college students commit suicide per year. To commemorate those lost, Active Minds, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about mental health has placed 1,100 empty backpacks on campuses throughout the country.

These empty backpacks signify the students that could have still been alive and going to school.

Called “Send Silence Packing,” the movement has been implemented at the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, and Michigan State University, with more schools targeted.

Having begun in 2008 at Washington D.C.’s National Mall, the organization has since visited more than 98 cities and reached more than 320,000 people.

Rather than just having a number, the empty backpacks gives each student a story and a face; therefore, students are able to connect with those that have committed suicide.

“The Send Silence Packing program is a visually stunning demonstration that poignantly shares the harsh statistic that suicide is one of the leading causes of death of college-aged students. The Monmouth Chapter of Active Minds was interested in bring the program to Monmouth but was unable to afford the costs associated with the travel,”said Christopher McKittrick, a psychological counselor at MU’s Department of Counseling and Psychological Services.  “Currently, IMHOPE (Innovative Mental Health Outreach by Peer Educators— a group of peer educators advised by Counseling and Psychological Services) is looking to create a program that illustrates the statistics related to suicide and highlights the supports and resources available to Monmouth students.”

Additionally, Jennifer McGovern, a assistant rofessor of political science and sociology, said that the backpacks are effective because the backpacks are highly visible and meaningful

At Monmouth University, many students said it was important that bullying among peers is put to an end, as that is one of the main causes for suicide among the youth of today.

“Suicide is a very concerning issue in today’s society,” said Jordan Finger, a sophomore health studies major. “People just have a habit of judging others and don’t realize that many times those people take it personal about what is said. Innocent friends and families are losing loved ones because teenagers especially do not realize what they are doing is considered bullying. People should begin to have an open mind about others before they just open their mouths and cause families to lose a loved one.”

Ava McClendon, a sophomore art student, added that every person is connected on some level, so it is imperative that people recognize the importance of life.

“People need to be made aware of suicide because everything we do affects other people,” said McClendon. “We must act and inform everyone that their life truly does matter. Everyone is connected in some form, whether it is spiritual or physical, so it is important to accept everyone for who they are and treat others meaningfully. People also need to realize their self-importance. Everyone is special in their own way and it is important to understand that.”

The Department of Counseling and Psychological services, located on the third floor of the Rebecca Stafford Student Center, offers mental counseling to those in need. The service is free, confidential, and open to all.

The counselors will discuss a range of topics and implement a strategy to combat these issues.

According to the department’s official mission statement, “The Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at Monmouth University supports students in achieving personal growth and greater understanding of self and others through confidential psychological counseling and educational events.”

Often, the department will host workshops that educate students about a particular topic, help students destress, or teach students how to manage issues.

Additionally, they will provide screenings that are free to students in which they will assess their mental state and determine whether or not they should make use of the counseling services.

After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report.  Additionally,

An estimated 1.3 million adults aged 18 or older attempted suicide in the past year. Further, among adults aged 18-22 years, about eight percent of full-time college students and other adults in this age group had suicidal thoughts and about 3 percent made suicide plans.

To better increase suicide awareness at MU, McClendon said she believes that all members of the university need to band together to combat this issue. “Unifying the student body, faculty, and staff, and applying the principle of unity and treating others with meaning is the key to spreading more awareness. This way, everyone will realize that each person is important and people will learn to care for one another more effectively.”

Any student in distress is advised to visit the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services on the third floor of the Student Center, open Monday to Friday from 8:45am – 5:00 pm.