UConn Women's Center reminds students they are not alone through 'Project Semicolon'

Project Semicolon was held at the Women's Center multipurpose room on the fourth floor of the Student Union as part of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. (Clockwise from bottom right) freshmen Julie Cahill, Ryan Chester, Ava Williams, Juwan Rose, Isabella DeSouza and Mary Khotsombath show off their Project Semicolon temporary tattoos. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

The semi colon is a widely disregarded grammatical symbol that implies a pause in a sentence. It's also a symbol that marked the beginning of suicide prevention week through "Project Semicolon," an event held at the Women’s Center in the Student Union building Monday evening.

Taking cause to pause at the Women’s Center were students pouring in to take up coloring semicolon printouts, painting small rocks with messages in words or images called hope stones and donning temporary semicolon tattoos.  All of these little efforts were employed in order to make physical a simple message; to pause and consider the lives of those who cope with mental illness and bear vigil to those who have committed suicide.

“The intent of this event was to put a physical piece of hope in the hands of anyone who came in today so that they can bear with them a reminder to them or those around them that they are not alone,” said Kathy Fischer, the associate director of the Women’s Center.

Suicide is the second most leading cause of death in individuals aged 10-24 according to the National Alliance on Mental Health and is the third leading cause of death of those aged 15-44 according to the school of social work at the University of Washington; and it’s on a hapless rise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates increased by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, with a 45 percent increase in females and a 16 percent increase in males.

“I just thought it would be great to be at a place tonight where this dialogue is supported,” said Natalia Marosh, a first-semester psychology major who also said that one of her closest friends suffers from mental illness. Like many, Marosh took a seat inside the women’s center on the fourth floor of the Student Union to color a semicolon.

Mental illness all too often goes hand in hand with suicide.  According to the University of Washington, “An estimated two to 15 percent of persons who have been diagnosed with major depression, 3 to 20 percent of persons who have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and six to 15 percent of person’s diagnosed schizophrenia die by suicide.

Those who suffer from depression alongside these illnesses as well as anxiety disorders are at an even higher risk of committing suicide.

Death by suicide is a staggering challenge to overcome, especially for those dealing with mental illness related to domestic issues, but also returning veterans.  A major obstacle in this fight relies on the fact that those affected need to want help and seek it.  Another obstacle is recognizing danger by identifying warning signals. For those who wish to learn about those signs, one may visit www.nami.org.

Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu. He tweets @wickedlouddude.