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Campus Health News

Counseling Center holds event for Suicide Awareness Month

Gunner Onkst

September was Suicide Awareness Month, and Drake’s Counseling Center hosted a variety of events to show students that resources are available for those struggling with suicidal ideation and mental health conditions like depression.

“Suicide awareness means bringing awareness to the fact that people have experiences that it’s really hard to talk about,” said Counseling Center Director Kayla Bell. “The hope is that you feel like we see you truly on a deeper level.” 

Educating students and faculty on the warning signs of suicide is another initiative for the Counseling Center. It is important to them that everyone is skilled enough to have these conversations and to know how to help, according to Bell. 

Eric Preuss, the project director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse within the Iowa Department of Public Health and Human Services,  staffed a booth at the Suicide Prevention Walk. Preuss works on providing resources primarily for individuals with substance abuse but also works to bring awareness to suicide since these issues can be related. 

Pruess’ booth provided brochures on how to contact Your Life in Iowa if a person is contemplating suicide. Sections in the brochure educate college students on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and provide phone numbers if they ever need someone to talk to. 

When talking to college students, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Human Services aims to remove the stereotype that excessive stress should be normalized. 

“I think a lot of it is our culture,” said Executive Officer 2 in the Iowa Department of Public Health Keri Neblett. “In the United States, we’re a very individualistic society that focuses on doing things independently. Independence is seen as ideal and relying on somebody for help is considered a sign of weakness.”

 With this also came a new national hotline to specifically address suicide. On July 15, 2022, the hotline was changed to 988 to create an easier set of numbers for callers to remember. 

“Please talk about hope,” Preuss said. “It is so important that no matter where you are, no matter what you’re going through, there is a better tomorrow no matter how dark it might feel today. Reach out, pick up the phone, call 988…help is just a phone call away and people are non-judgemental.”

 

The Suicide Prevention Walk

On the afternoon of  Sept. 23, dozens of students participated in a Suicide Prevention Walk hosted by the Drake Counseling Center. Among them was Drake’s women’s soccer team, dressed in matching shirts with encouraging messages, as well as many students walking in support of loved ones and friends who died from suicide or contemplated it.

“Supporting the people I know that struggled and went through stuff, it’s something that is not talked about a lot and that is not okay,” said sophomore Madissen Kerman. “I feel like it should be talked about more and these walks really help.” 

As the students walked, they passed arrows featuring messages  like ‘you are loved’  and  ‘you are not alone.’  They also passed tables staffed by organizations offering resources, such as cards with numbers students could call if they needed to talk to someone.

“We need more authentic conversations about suicide,” said Tyler Jacob-Lewis, a counselor at the Drake Counseling Center. “It’s one of those things that is just not discussed because people think it’s scary, and you know, the reality is it is a little bit scary. I think we can’t deny that, but if we’re having conversations, it lessens that fear, and people will engage in conversations.” 

The walk’s purpose was to bring awareness to suicide and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Group events like these can show students that they are not alone.

“It was a big event that we wanted, and to see so many students coming out for it was really great just because we know all students are busy,” Jacob-Lewis said.

 

I’mpossible Panel

Comedian Josh Rivedal came to campus to talk with students about his own struggles with mental health and provide insight on how to stay positive. 

Rivedal gave reflections on his own life in how he developed the mindset of honoring how people show up, how to recognize people and how he needed to be more vulnerable. 

“It wasn’t what I expected. I enjoyed how the presenter that they brought in was also a comedian, so it had some lightheartedness to it,” first-year Lauren Benson said. “He also gave personal experience and ideas for prevention.” 

Recognizing the healing process was one of the most formative parts of Rivedal’s mental journey, he explained. He had to accept that he wasn’t coping in healthy ways and wasn’t seeking out help.

“A lot of people don’t get that kind of access or that help before they do in their life, especially in college,” sophomore Tegan Byford said. “I know there are a lot of people that struggle and just don’t know where to get help, and unfortunately schools just don’t teach that,” 

Rivedal ended his presentation on how to help others and notice the warning signs. He wanted to let everyone know that college students are capable of preventing suicide as long as you let them know that you are here for them and that you see them. 

With this being one of the last events, the message still stands that suicide awareness is not something that should be discussed only during the month of September, Bell said. 

“My hope especially in my role here is that we create a community where somebody could walk anywhere on campus and have resources or feel supportive for their own wellness – that they don’t feel as though their insecurity for what they are doesn’t belong and that they are enough,” Bell said.

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