AST Event
Club & Greek

Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Pi Release the Stigma

Members of Greek life and the Monmouth community congregated on The Great Lawn at Woodrow Wilson Hall on Sunday morning, Sept. 20 to release the stigma associated with mental illness. Hosted by Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Pi, the Greek life organizations aimed to provide insight to fellow hawks about the dangers of mental illness and what can be done to prevent the act of suicide. 

At the event, the sorority and fraternity gave each individual in attendance bubbles to be blown in remembrance of those who lost their battle with mental illness and turned to suicide. Balloons were also released into the sky; however, the amount was limited due to environmental concerns from the University.

While most Greek life events cost five dollars to enter in order to raise funds for philanthropic causes, this event was free of charge. The sorority and fraternity’s main goal during the vigil was to provide awareness rather than raise money. Both organizations encouraged students to make donations, however, no donation was necessary to participate in the event. 

Dr. Andrew Lee, Director Of Counseling And Psychological Services, spoke to those who partook in the vigil. He said “suicide is the number two cause of death for college and university students across the country. It claims the lives of approximately 1,100 college students every year.” 

Due to this number, the organizations released 11 balloons, one for every 100 students who have committed suicide. 

In 2012, Monmouth University was given a grant in the amount of $301,215 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The grant was intended to be used over the course of three years. According to the press release published in 2012 by Monmouth University, the grant would be used to “assist in its efforts to prevent suicide and enhance mental health services to students in crisis.” 

The funds from the grant were planned to be used “to train [the student body] in mental health and suicide awareness, and identification and referral/help-seeking, as well as being exposed to public awareness messages.” Funds from the grant were given to Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Pi to help promote the event across campus.

Bringing awareness of such a prominent issue in today’s world, especially with younger generations, is a mission for both Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Pi. Both organizations hold the idea of suicide prevention close to their hearts due to the fact it is philanthropy for both. In the 2013-2014 school year, the fraternity raised nearly $200,000 for suicide prevention across all chapters. In Alpha Sigma Tau’s case, sisters decided to adopt suicide prevention as a local philanthropy in the 1980’s after a member died by suicide. Since that day, sisters of AST plan a suicide awareness week each year. 

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken something as devastating as losing one of our sisters, Dana Peskowitz, to suicide to open our eyes to the prevalence and importance of this issue,” said Annie Siegal, senior social work major and President of Alpha Sigma Tau. “It’s a lesson we take graciously and strive to raise awareness about. No one should have to suffer in silence.”

After the event concluded, sisters of AST took a moment to remember Dana Peskowitz and remind each other no matter how hard the days can be, there is always a reason for tomorrow. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention releases statistics every year of deaths by suicide. The last year with complete and accurate data is 2013, where 41,149 deaths by suicide were reported. In the same year, suicide became the tenth leading cause of death upon Americans, with a suicidal death occurring every 12.8 minutes across the country. From 1986 to 2000, suicide rates had dropped by 2.1 percent. Within 13 years, the rate increased yet again by 2.2 percent.

For this reason, Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Pi will continue to spread awareness about mental illness and suicide, in hopes to see suicide rates drop over the next few years. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Lyssa Coleman