By SAVANNA BOUS
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On average, every 19 hours, another person dies because of suicide in Iowa. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is also the second leading cause of death in Iowa for individuals 15-34 years of age.
129 yellow flags border Helmick Commons to represent the number of people who die every day in the United States because of suicide.
Suicide is an epidemic, but many believe there is hope and awareness on Drake University’s campus.
Drake University’s second annual Suicide Prevention Week took place April 8-13. Events include a wide range of activities including cupcakes with counselors, a volunteer performance art night called “Share My Story”, a screening of the animated movie “Inside Out”, a diversity and suicide prevention talk, renowned speaker Kevin Hines and the suicide prevention walk. All events were hosted by Drake Rise Up.
Drake Rise Up is a campus campaign, that was created solely by Abbie Gartland last year. Gartland created the movement when she noticed there was a lack of suicide awareness on campus.
Drake Rise Up collaborated with student senate, student activities board, unity roundtable, resident halls association and resident hall’s executive counsel this year to put on the various events.
“I had a little seed of an idea and everybody watered it,” Gartland said. “Everyone was so supportive. I could not have done this on my own.”
Drake Rise Up got its name from the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day. The premise of the campaign is to take the pledge and “rise up for you”.
Casey Hutchins is an active, first-year member of the Drake Rise Up committee.
“We’re a community now – everyone who has worked on this committee,” Hutchins said. “We’ve all done so much for it. Everybody who’s helped with it, every person who we’re working with deserves praise. I am very passionate about mental health. I am an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention awareness – it’s just something I want to bring to light on campus.”
Hutchins also said that he personally deals with mental illness and has attempted suicide.
“All my life, there’s suicide surrounding it. My uncle passed from suicide, a couple people from my high school passed from suicide so it’s been something I’ve been a big advocate for,” Hutchins said.
Hutchins is the creator of the “Share My Story” event. Not only did he run the event, he also participated in the event as a performer to share his story about suicide.
Gartland said Drake’s suicide prevention week has garnered more interest this year than last. Gartland and Hutchins believe there’s a connection to the suicide that occurred on campus last semester.
“So many people were affected by it on Drake’s campus that I think a lot more people are interested and willing to help,” Gartland said.
Dr. Mark Kloberdanz is the Director of Counseling at Drake University. He is in his eighth year here and has worked previously at other colleges and a veteran’s hospital. He stated that last year the counseling center met with 504 students and logged over 2,500 hours of counseling. Dr. Kloberdanz said the best part of the job is the journey watching the students grow.
A total of five people work at Drake University health center. The staff include one front desk employee, two nurse practitioners and two counselors. There is also a psychiatrist who is a former Drake graduate that comes in four hours a week, but mostly handles medication management.
“Because of the volume of people, we see, we are very well connected with the community,” Kloberdanz said. “ We know a lot of the practitioners out there. When we get a student, who needs a higher level of care than we can provide, we plug them into a person, instead of a place.”
The counseling center urges anyone contemplating suicide or feeling depressed, anxious, or sad to schedule an appointment.
“This whole awareness via suicide awareness or just mental health awareness – it’s very important to get that word out there that nobody has left out, nobody has to feel that lonely, no one has to feel that desperate,” Kloberdanz said. “There are people out there that care.”
Photo courtesy of