This week is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week. The Vision has made this a special topic and will spend the week highlighting resources and people on campus who are here to help. If you or someone you know is struggling, call the Suicide Lifeline at 988 or reach out to Belmont’s Office of Counseling Services.
There’s a daunting number, and it’s going up.
“It’s increasing. It’s increasing a lot faster than we want it to,” said Angie Bryant, assistant dean of students at Belmont.
In past years, nobody wanted to talk about it out loud – this year, that’s changed.
Belmont is putting on its first Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week to ensure every resource, on- and off-campus, is available to students who are struggling.
“One is too many. We have significantly more than one,” said Bryant.
There will be a chapel service, an interactive art installation on the lawn, a documentary screening and a walk to raise funds and awareness of suicide on campus.
“It’s a lot of areas coming together and it’s people who have been impacted by it saying, ‘This is important. I want to contribute to something important on campus,’” said Bryant.
Suicide is second-leading cause of death for college students behind vehicle-related accidents, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Approximately 1,100 college-aged students die by suicide every year, according to a report from the National Institute of Health
And while Belmont won’t disclose the actual number of attempts on campus, Bryant said there were some.
“We can’t act as if this isn’t happening on college campuses,” she said.
She is not alone in her fight to bring awareness to suicide prevention and the resources available at Belmont
Capt. Tiffany Cooper, a Belmont security officer, lost her husband to suicide 14 years ago. She spearheaded bringing “Walk out of Darkness” to campus this semester.
Katherine Cornelius, director of Counseling Services, has training in suicide prevention and ensured all campus counselors do as well.
Belmont student Khalil Dabdoub got tired of seeing his classmates struggling. He worked with Counseling Services to bring a chapter of Active Minds to Belmont and now serves as the club’s president. Active Minds is a national non-profit network dedicated to raising awareness for mental health issues among young adults. It is the organization behind the interactive display “Send Silence Packing” on the main lawn on Wednesday.
“We want to do what we can do to reduce the barriers and remove shame around this topic, because people are losing their lives,” said Bryant. “People are trying to take their lives. That breaks my heart.” Students have access to a slew of resources through Belmont’s counseling services. The office, found in Gabhart 220, is staffed with 11 therapists, social workers and psychologists. Every counselor is trained to screen students for possible suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
And while it can sometimes take a couple of weeks to secure an appointment, one counselor is always available for walk-in sessions, said Cornelius.
Belmont offers both one-on-one meetings and group therapy sessions to every student.
“The more you talk about it, that is actually a preventative,” Cornelius said. “Evidence shows it’s a preventative.”
For students seeking a quicker appointment, help is available 24/7 through TimelyCare, a free online service offering confidential mental and physical aid to all students.
“I think for too long, mental health has been viewed as something that shouldn’t really be talked about,” said Dabdoub. “We’ve always been taught to hide our feelings and not talk to anyone when we’re struggling.”
“We all struggle at times and talking about it helps people to understand that they aren’t alone and that it’s something we all go through and it’s normal,” he said.
In addition to TimelyCare, students can access information for local resources on Counseling Services’ web page.
Belmont’s goal this week, above anything, is to foster an environment where students feel they can talk about their mental health.
“For me, it’s time,” said Bryant.
PHOTO: Belmont Vision Multimedia. Lillie Burke/Belmont Vision.
This article was written by Sarah Maninger