BY ELLIE DETWEILER
Thursday night, Ryan Nesbit, a volunteer for the Polk County Suicide Coalition and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), explained to the Drake community signs of suicide and how bystanders or friends can approach others. Nesbit gave 44 presentations last year on the topic of suicide prevention.
This topic is extremely personal for Nesbit, from small town Iowa, who was 15 when he found his high school best friend, Roger, after he had committed suicide.
“When you are at those low points, you’re really in a tunnel … good things might be happening but … it’s hard to get out of it,” Nesbit said in his speech to the Drake community. “You have to take this seriously … if there was one simple answer to stop someone dying by suicide, we would be doing it everywhere.”
Nesbit gave this speech with Dave Andrews, a volunteer for AFSP. Andrews, wearing a pin of his son Jake who committed suicide in 2014, joined AFSP to tell his and his son’s story.
“If I can save one person, it’s worth it to tell that painful story,” Andrews said of his son, who would’ve turned 30 this week.
Drake University dedicated Feb. 11-Feb. 15 as Self-Care Week across campus, hoping to raise awareness of suicide prevention and unhealthy student habits.
Leah Berte, the student support case management coordinator in the Student Disabilities Office, had the idea for a self-care day, but as Student Senate and members of LEAD joined, they turned it into a full week.
On Sunday, the Cowles Library Reading Room provided snacks and brought in Griff for students to learn about meditation, mindfulness and stress management tips.
Jennifer Drew, a clinical social worker at Broadlawns Medical Center, spoke on Monday in Cowles Library about tips for breaking the cycle of stress. Drew sees many students become too involved in college and focusing not on what is manageable and healthy but what they think could be put on a resume.
“Learning more about authenticity, following your own compass … and (knowing) what your priorities are is the most important,” Drew said. “It seems that at Drake, which is a super competitive school, there’s competition for everything, and a lot of people suffer for that.”
Puppy Jake Foundation, located in Urbandale, held its event on Tuesday in the Olmsted Breezeway to discuss its service dog training program for veterans.
There was a self-care fair Wednesday, including a massage therapist in Parents Hall and displays in the Olmsted Breezeway for wellness, counseling, music therapy and information from Violence Intervention Partner (VIP) and LEAD.
Drake’s Counseling Center hosted “Confessions with a Counselor” on Thursday, providing 15-minute, confidential visits with counselors in the Drake Room inside Olmsted, including counselor Diane Eischeid.
“I thought it was important for students to hear a personal account of someone who has been affected by suicide and all the efforts that … are made in Polk County to help others be more aware,” Eischeid said.
Lauren Kern, enrolled in the master’s program for mental health counseling at Drake, attended Nesbit’s speech and highlighted the societal pressure on achievement.
“Especially with social media, everyone just shows the highlights of their life and no one is showing the real, raw moments,” Kern said. “If we skip self-care, we keep working ourselves until we break down.”
AFSP raises money for their foundation and supports friends and family of suicide victims through Out of the Darkness Walks, their student fundraising series. Out of the Darkness Campus Walk is designed to engage youth and young adults in the fight to prevent suicide. Nesbit and Andrews encouraged students to attend Iowa State University for their campus walk at 1 p.m. on March 24 and said a donor has agreed to match up to $50,000.
To contact Drake’s Counseling Center for more information on self-care, call 515-271-3864. To contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.