Attendees packed into the Student Union Thursday to listen and learn about suicide from the Student Voices Panel, the latest in a week of events for Suicide Prevention Week. African American Cultural Center director Dr. Willena Kimpson Price moderated the event from a podium at the front of the room.
Price called up five student panelists one by one who discussed how suicide has affected their lives. The main idea that reverberated several times throughout the panel was the notion of being kind and treating everyone with respect.
Price then opened up the discussion to the audience, asking if they had ever experienced bullying. Price was sure to mention that bullying happened to those of any age, including college students. Perhaps one of the most powerful and heartbreaking stories came from Price, who shared an anecdote about a six-year-old boy driven to the point of suicide because of how horribly he was bullied.
Throughout the event, a television near the podium displayed suicide statistics.
“18 to 24 year olds think more about suicide than any other age group,” Price said.
Price drew everyone’s attention to the statistics to illuminate how prevalent suicide is in our society. Underneath each statistic was an inspirational quote meant to remind those in the audience to keep holding on.
Price also discussed the importance of Suicide Prevention Week in raising awareness. Before Suicide Prevention Week, “We had suicide after suicide after suicide here at the University of Connecticut,” Price said. Price wanted to make it very clear that talking about suicide was incredibly important in removing the stigma surrounding it, especially in a college setting. According to Price, one in 12 U.S. college students have made a suicide plan.
Several students in the audience decided to join the conversation and share experiences and anecdotes from their life. One student discussed how suicide affects people that might not even know the victim, while another student spoke about the lead singer of Linkin Park, who committed suicide this past summer. A graduate student in the audience asked to expand on the statistics Price provided and how they could change when we think about the intersection of mental health and race.
Towards the end, Erin Cox, assistant director of outreach for the Center for Mental Health Services, came forward to discuss and dispel the rumors regarding therapy and talking about suicide. Counselors like Cox at CMHS are a confidential resource for students and will not share their personal information with parents, friends or anyone else unless there is imminent danger.
Cox was also sure to discuss what people can do to help their friends and family members who may be struggling with suicide. “It's a difficult thing to know how to help somebody,” Cox said.
Cox stressed the importance of face-to-face communication and how we can use that to notice when someone may need help. “That's how we see the warning signs,” Cox said. Cox encouraged those struggling with depression and suicide to go to talk to someone about it, whether it be at CMHS or elsewhere.
“I’m grateful for the people that spoke today, because they were strong enough to tell their stories,” Taylor Duhart, a fifth-semester exercise science major, said. “It opened up my eyes to see that pain isn’t visible.”
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.