Counseling center kicks off National Suicide Prevention Week


Flags flap in the wind on the Bardeen Quad during a 2014 event sponsored by the Counseling Center for National Suicide Prevention Week, which started Monday. Workers from the Counseling Center placed 1100 flags on the quad yesterday morning to represent the approximately 1100 college students who commit suicide each year. Passersby could then write encouraging messages to show their support.

By Edward Gathercoal

The Engineering Quad was dotted with over 1,100 white flags on Monday, representing the approximate number of college students that commit suicide each year.

The event was held to start off National Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW), held from Sept. 7-13. The campaign strives to raise awareness about the issue and reduce the stigma that surrounds it. They also aim to support those who have attempted suicide and encourage people to seek mental health assistance.

“Mental health, in general, is something that often goes unacknowledged as being difficult for college students,” said Ryan Nemethy, paraprofessional graduate assistant at the Counseling Center. “Anyway to help other students and acknowledge that there are people out there that care. It may be just a little thing that affects a few people, but I think it’s really helpful.”

Students passing through had the opportunity to show their support by writing encouraging messages on the flags.

“It is estimated that annually over 1,000 students commit suicide on national campuses, and of those, a number of them never seek help at their college counseling center,” said R.J. McNicholl, clinical counselor at the Counseling Center. “(This event) is not only for students to understand that they can offer support and be supportive, but also for those students who may be experiencing those thoughts to realize that they have a large support network here at our University.”

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    The Suicide Prevention Team is a collaboration between the Counseling Center, McKinley Health Center and the Office of the Dean of Students.

    “Our goal is to provide them (the students) with support and helpful resources but also to ensure their safety and the safety of the campus,” McNicholl said.

    At the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall, the Counseling Center hosted a workshop where students could take part in an online training program called the Kognito At-Risk Suicide Prevention Training program. Stephen Edwards, intern at the Counseling Center and graduate student in social work, said that through this online system, students can interact with avatars and learn how to better identify, support and connect distressed students with campus resources. These booths will also be set up at the Student Dining and Residential Programs (SDRP) Building on Wednesday, Sept. 10 and Thursday, Sept. 11.

    Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for college students, according to the Counseling Center.

    Nationwide, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death annually in the U.S. as of 2011, According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), which sponsors NSPW.

    “When it comes to suicide prevention, I think it is one of the most important topics on college campuses today,” said McNicholl. “Really I think it is about getting involved in a cause that saves lives.”

    The Counseling Center is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and on call after 5 p.m. seven days a week.

    World Suicide Prevention Day is hosted on Sept. 10th and is hosted by the World Health Organization, the World Federation for Mental Health and the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

    Edward can be reached at [email protected].