BY KOLTON KNAPP
Walking across Helmick Commons on a sunny day, one would see tables set up for church fellowships, sorority and fraternity life sign-ups, and over this past week, a table for To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA).
TWLOHA is a suicide prevention organization that set up a booth in Helmick Commons to honor Suicide Prevention Week. Offering support and comfort, willing students sat behind the booth with an open mind for those suffering from depression and any other mental health disorders.
A study at Emory University indicated that suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students.
Liz Dohrn, who ran the booth, said that stress, student debt and the current political climate all have a role to play in college suicides. Dohrn said that even with the University Counseling Center so readily available, students don’t feel completely comfortable expressing their emotions with professionals. As individuals with full schedules, stress may overwhelm students. One way to deal with stress is talking with a professional and expressing all the concerns that the student has.
TWLOHA plays a role in the Drake University community by letting students know that they aren’t alone in their emotions. As students struggle, TWLOHA is there to help them through it. Part of the problem, Dohrn said, is society’s bigotry against expressing emotions.
As a student body and as individuals, she urged students to “talk more about mental health, and make it a societal norm.” Dohrn said she doesn’t believe enough students express their worries, thus making their classmates more uncomfortable to voice their concerns.
TWLOHA offers support to anyone struggling, as does the University Counseling Center. There is no need for those struggling with depression or any other mental illness to be afraid to talk, Dohrn stated. As students who are all too familiar with the struggles of student debt and exams, students not involved with TWLOHA should be able to express their feelings with the group, keeping in mind their comparable situations.
“You would never be embarrassed to go to the doctor’s if you were sick,” Dohrn said. “Why should you be afraid to go the counseling center for help if you need it?”
Dohrn compared a severe injury with mental health disorders and said if students need the help offered by the University Counseling Center, they should get the help.
Though getting the help needed may be terrifying for some, Dohrn said getting the assistance is necessary.
TWLOHA’s booth offered a simple alternative to conversation: a “burden jar,” where students could write down anything that was bothering them, slip it in, and then walk away. Similar to this is an event the University Counseling Center is hosting in Olmsted’s breezeway next week for Suicide Prevention Month.
Diane Eischeid, a licensed medical health therapist at the University Counseling Center, said the therapists from the University Counseling Center will be setting up a “Wall of Remembrance,” where students can bring pictures of their loved ones who have passed, and also have the opportunity to write words of encouragement for those who they know are struggling. This therapeutically assists students in coping with the searing pain experienced as a result of losing a relative.
Eischeid said that if students see any of their classmates having issues accomplishing everyday tasks, such as bathing, eating, going to class or sleeping too much, to confront them gently with all consideration of their health. Eischeid said the lack of initiative to ask for help when suffering from mental illness is a result of self-inflicted pressure. It is possible that, while Drake has resources to assist students in forming a resolve to combat stress levels, individuals feel like others judge them for asking for the help they need, Eischeid said.
“Coming for help is a sign of strength. You are trying to get a hold on your problems,” Eischeid said.
As a therapist, Eischeid does not think anyone should be worried about maintaining a tough exterior when they truly need the help the University Counseling Center offers.
“Talking about stuff is scary,” Dohrn said. “We are here to give students resources and provide them with support … It’s what To Write Love on Her Arms is all about.”