This week, the University of Connecticut celebrated Suicide Prevention Week. Aimed at spreading awareness around the topic of suicide, the idea of mental health was especially brought to light across campus. It is estimated that every year, about 800,000 people globally die by suicide. Millions more suffer with chronic mental illness. Mental illness is by no means an easy topic. About 49.5% of all adolescents will suffer with mental health issues at some point in their lives, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in those aged 18 to 25.
If you are struggling with mental health issues or suicidal ideation, it is important to know that there is hope. UConn has a plethora of resources available to help. By contacting Student Health and Wellness, you can get connected with licensed therapists and counselors to help you during your time here. They can also make referrals to outside resources and providers.
Active Minds, a student club aimed at spreading mental health awareness, kicked off the week by decorating the lawn by the Student Union entrance with 1,100 yellow flags. Referred to as The Field of Memories, the flags represent the many college students whose lives were lost to suicide. They also painted the Spirit Rock yellow for the event.
Active Minds leads UConn’s Suicide Prevention Week along with SHaW’s “Suicide Prevention Coalition.” You can also visit the SHaW website to learn more about upcoming events.
Pet therapy in particular has been popular among students. Every week, trained therapeutic dogs come to locations across campus. These visits are aimed at providing stress relief to students during a busy semester. Each therapy dog is loved by hundreds of students, and the event has been a hit for years now.
There is significant evidence that interacting with animals can help mental health conditions. Petting your favorite furry friends has proven to decrease cortisol levels (a stress hormone), and can lower your overall blood pressure. Some studies have also shown that interacting with dogs, cats or other animals can boost your mood and reduce loneliness. I know that when I’m away from home and missing my pet, UConn’s pet therapy can really help my overall mood during a busy week.
During Suicide Prevention Week, it’s important to learn the warning signs of suicide. Talking about being a burden to others, being in pain or wanting to die are all serious signs of immediate risk. Giving away possessions or beloved items is also a serious warning sign. If you or someone you know is engaging in increased substance use, mood swings or self-harm behaviors, please reach out for help.
Mental and behavioral health disorders are scary to deal with. Being in college and trying to keep up with classes, work and a social life makes it 10 times harder. But know that there is help.
You are never alone, and reaching out for help is one of the bravest things you could ever do for yourself. Suicide is preventable. There is hope, and you don’t have to live in darkness forever. If you are struggling with mental health concerns, reach out to SHaW for help. If you are thinking about suicide, or have a friend or family member who may be thinking about suicide, don’t wait. Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.