Wellness leaders advocate suicide awareness

By Marie Veillette

With the death of well-known and loved actor Robin Williams, discussion about suicide has increased. Unfortunately, the loss of a life is usually what starts the conversation. The Wellness Educators at Hendrix Clinic are aiming to spark conversation on the topic before a life is taken.

Wednesday will be the second time Suicide Awareness Day has been recognized on MSUM’s campus in September after many years of advocating in April.

“The Wellness Educators wanted to recognize the World Suicide Awareness Day as well as get information out in the beginning of the school year,” Lynn Peterson, coordinator of sexual assault services, said.

Those walking through campus have probably noticed signs reminding people to wear yellow in support of the day. The color was not arbitrarily chosen.

“The Yellow Ribbon Suicide program is primarily for addressing youth, teen, and young adult suicides,” Peterson said.

The program was started in remembrance of Mike Emme, a 17-year-old who took his own life. From this program, the yellow color was chosen as to promote Suicide Awareness Day.

Wednesday is also DragonFest, making it an opportune time for Wellness Educators to spread their message to a large number of students, staff and faculty. Those on campus on Wednesday can look for the table promoting Suicide Awareness Day. Students can pick up information at the table as well as yellow wristbands to show support. Students will have the option to personalize the band if they choose.

“Last year some people wrote the name of a loved one who committed suicide; others just wrote words such as ‘love,’” Peterson said. “It is a personal thing that they can write whatever is meaningful to them, and then wear the bracelet.”

The chances that suicide has affected any given person are high.

“Every year over 800,000 people die from suicide – about one every 40 seconds,” Peterson stated. “Suicide is the leading cause of death in 15 to 29 year olds.”

The main goal of Suicide Awareness day is to aid prevention.

“Our hope is to raise awareness that suicide is preventable,” Peterson said. “We want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma regarding suicide.”

Hendrix Clinic and Counseling Center offers many services students can use if they or someone they know are considering suicide. Along with the medical staff, Hendrix offers case managers, psychologists and psychiatric services, as well as a licensed addiction counselor.

Talking to someone who may be considering suicide is difficult and can be uncomfortable.

“A person who is suicidal may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean help isn’t wanted,” Peterson said. “Most suicidal people just want the pain to stop. Talking about it may be hard, but it can save a life.”

Peterson offered a three-question checklist for those who are trying to assess whether or not someone may intend to commit suicide:

1) Do you intend to commit suicide?

2) Do you have a plan?

3) Do you have the means?

If the threat seems imminent, Peterson advised the concerned person should call 911 or get the person to the emergency room. She also added that contacting a trained professional, either at Hendrix or a suicide hotline, could be lifesaving.

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