It is much like the way a school district will at times respond in a taboo mannner to a student suicide. “Talk to someone,” they say, while at the same time glossing over the incident like a zamboni on a rough sheet of ice.
On Thursday, University of Connecticut students heard their peers’ stories at the Student Voices Panel as part of Suicide Prevention Week. These students spoke bravely and openly about the traumatic experiences they’ve lived through. The panel was held in the community room of the African American Cultural Center (AACC) on the fourth floor of the Student Union.
September is National Suicide Prevention month, a time to highlight the resources available to aid people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and those who seek to help them. Every year, more than 40,000 individuals in the U.S. take their own lives, cutting short their future and devastating the ones around them. While this issue affects tens of thousands every year, people are often uninformed about the options available to them. Because of this lack of awareness and due to the stigma associated with mental health issues, many who need help do not seek aid from a mental health professional.
For those at UConn, there are useful options available if someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts or other mental health-related issues. The main organization to see would be Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS), which provides individual therapy, group counseling and a variety of other services. Importantly, CMHS does outreach to students, faculty and staff, so they can recognize the warning signs of someone who may be contemplating suicide.
Being aware that resources are available is equally important as being willing to utilize these resources. Although our awareness of mental health has been broadened, there are still a variety of stigmas that exist around mental health issues, and especially suicide. Because the pains of mental health problems are not easily visible or easy to make sense of, people have historically been suspicious of those with certain illnesses and dismissive of their legitimacy. These stigmas still linger in certain environments so it can take a great deal of courage to seek out help.
Therefore, it is important for everyone at the university to be understanding of those who deal with these problems and offer our support. That sort of acceptance can go a long way towards people opening up about their issues. We want to get to a point where students aren’t afraid of approaching one another, especially their close friends, about mental health issues out of the fear that they might be judged or mocked. It is unfortunate that so many people are driven to take their own lives, but if we join together and encourage an open dialogue, we can let people know they are not alone, they are not unwanted and they are not unloved.