A central location is important to getting the message out this Suicide Prevention Week. Protect Our Pack, the University of Connecticut’s bystander intervention Program, tabled in the Student Union on Monday to spread awareness about suicide prevention and to encourage students to “Listen Louder.”
Protect Our Pack hosted an activity where students could dip their palms in paint and then leave their handprint on a banner that said “Connection is Prevention.” Students signed their name under their handprint to represent that they are part of the university community, and that they are committed to helping and listening to their peers who might be experiencing suicidal feelings. The banner will be hung up in the dean of students’ office so that students can see it.
Also at the table were prompts that Protect Our Pack members gave to students to encourage them to think about their own life experiences. The prompts asked students to recall times they had felt happy, included or left out.
Seventh-semester pharmacy major and Protect Our Pack member Terence Natt said that talking about the prompts allowed students to feel validated in their feelings, even the negative ones. Talking about others’ life experiences also helps students to feel connected, Natt said, and this connection improves students’ wellbeing.
“That’s really helpful in preventing suicide, having this sense of connectedness and togetherness within our community,” Natt said.
The theme of this year’s Suicide Prevention Week is “Listen Louder.” Natt said that the theme encourages students to make sure their peers are okay and to watch for any signs of suicidal ideation in their peers.
“It’s all about asking the deeper questions, even if that may be uncomfortable; just knowing that they have somebody that they can talk to is always going to be more important than letting them suffer in silence,” Natt said.
When students visited the table, Protect Our Pack members gave them yellow t-shirts with an image of a megaphone with hearts pouring out of it and the words “Listen Louder.”
While Protect Our Pack tabled inside the Union, mental health advocacy organization Active Minds did the same outside the Student Union. Active Minds president and fifth-semester psychology and human development and family studies double major, Alex Schaible, said that this week is important to the mission of her organization. Tabling allows them to get out on campus and get people talking about mental health issues and suicide prevention.
At their table, Active Minds had paper cut-outs of megaphones with the prompts “I listen to…” and “I listen because…” Students could write their response and attach the cut-out to a board with other student responses. After students completed the activity, Active Minds gave out the same Suicide Prevention Week t-shirts as Protect Our Pack.
Schaible said that this year’s theme asked students to reflect on their friends’ and their own mental well-being.
“The point of it is to try to make people stop and think ‘Am I really listening, am I really trying to connect with my friends, am I really sure that they’re doing ok and that I’m doing ok?’” Schaible said.
Natt echoed this sentiment, stating that even if students didn’t actively participate in Suicide Prevention Week events, the theme of “Listen Louder” would stick with them and remind them to check in and conenct with their peers.
“It’s just like putting it in your mind that even if you’re not going through something, someone that you may know is going through something and you always want to think about that and keep that in mind,” Natt said.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.