Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. This year, Suicide Awareness Week was Sept. 9 through Sept. 15. During that week here at Saint Martin’s, there was a Suicide Prevention Panel and numerous posters on suicide awareness and explaining what to do if you need help, but it is all taken down when the next day of awareness comes along. How is this really educating our community when people are just going to forget about it because it did not apply to them? Or brush it away when the next thing comes along? I realize that it is not ideal and would get a little bit repetitive to see or say something every day about the subject, but that small step of repetitiveness is what saves lives. Yes, an observed week to raise awareness for a touchy subject is great, but what we really need is to recognize, educate, and minimize suicide by speaking openly about it whenever possible. In order to save lives and raise awareness, we must take it upon ourselves to think of others and what they are going through and to educate ourselves to better our community.
Amanda Chappell, a senior at Saint Martin’s, and a mental health advocate, provided her thoughts on the subject, “From a personal standpoint, this subject is very important to me. There is this intense stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide, which causes many to not open up about their issues. I speak freely about my past because I want others to understand that it is totally okay to talk about. There is nothing wrong, or sinful, about having inner demons – it’s literally just a chemical imbalance in your brain. In order to normalize these illnesses and help people understand what they are dealing with internally, we have to consistently advocate that a mental disorder is just as significant as a broken arm. While that may seem like a reach to some, it’s important to realize that until you have experienced extreme paranoia, or a depressive episode that lasts two days, you cannot say that these illnesses are not relevant enough to be treated. If we don’t share our stories of progression, how are others who are out there struggling going to realize that it can be manageable? Being a two-time suicide survivor myself, I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t get easier, you just learn how to reprogram your mind in those dark times to see the light that keeps you alive.”
According to Yahoo News, “Three out of four college students say they’re stressed and many report suicidal thoughts.” College is a vulnerable time for numerous reasons and we must combat everything from stress to mental illness by actively talking about these heavy subjects. Every year we go through the standard, “What to do in an earthquake, fire, and active shooter scenario” but what about our students’ mental health? Openness and awareness of the subject should become a standard talking point in society,specifically in colleges. You may think that this will do nothing to minimize the number of suicides each year, but even if doing this saves only one life, then it was worth it. This is why it is extremely important for colleges to educate students and faculty on the subject and provide the much-needed resources for students to be able to ask for help.
Not only should we do what we can to raise awareness for suicide prevention, but we should be advocating for mental health in general all year round as well. The two subjects go hand-in-hand. People do not normally talk about suicide because it is too sensitive of a subject. But, you never know who you could help by simply being open and honest about resources and education regarding the subject. It all comes down to saving lives.
Do not be afraid to talk, we can help:
Saint Martin’s Counseling and Wellness Center: 360-412-6123
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255