According to the UWG Counseling Center, suicide is the number two leading cause of death among college students in the U.S. The Counseling and Career Development Center at the University of West Georgia hosted Suicide Prevention Week during the last week of September. The events encouraged struggling students and shared and increased knowledge about the impact of suicide. Students were encouraged to tweet about suicide prevention week using #stronger2gether.
The first two events were the Circle of Impact and the Wall of Hope. Both events were intended to encourage students through art. The Circle of Impact focused on how suicide affects the people close to the victims, and the Wall of Hope gave students a chance to share quick and encouraging message to those who might be struggling.
Wednesday was the Day of Play, where students met near the Campus Center for games, like corn-hole, in order to get a break from the usual rhythm of college life. Later that day, the counseling center staff brought their pets to Starbucks in order to form relationships with students and increase awareness for the counseling center.
On Thursday., the counseling center held the Suicide Prevention Fair, which taught students about suicide while playing games and winning prizes.
The last event, held Friday, allowed students to get anonymous online depression screenings for free.
“When someone commits suicide, it’s not the first time they’ve thought about it,” said Terri Ducker, outreach coordinator for the Counseling Center. “And it’s not like they want to kill themselves; they just want the pain that’s happening to end.”
To encourage students to be able to take action earlier, Ducker stressed forming relationships with struggling students.
“What I notice mostly about college students is that it’s not about the message; it’s about the relationship,” she said. “So, if I create relationships at that moment where they’re experiencing some stuff that’s overwhelming, they’re more inclined to go, ‘Oh wait, I met this counselor, and she was really kind of cool.’ And they’re more inclined to come in and get help.”
Another reason college students are vulnerable to suicide is that their brains are actually still forming. The last part of the brain to form is the frontal lobe, which deals with impulses. When a student’s brain gets overwhelmed, it does not have the mechanism to cope with it.
“I would say the first barrier is I think they think they’re the only one. And they’re afraid to let anyone else know that they’re having those kinds of thoughts or feelings. I don’t think we live in a world that makes it okay for people to have their own feelings,” Ducker said, “and there’s not a lot of education going on in the schools to help them understand that these are kind of normal thoughts and feelings that people have at times. In the same way you experience happiness, you’re going to experience sadness.”
In order to help someone on campus during the counseling center’s office hours, it is best to take a student directly to the Counseling Center, where they can talk to a counselor who can either speak to them immediately or set an appointment depending on the situation. If it is after hours, it is best to call campus police who will get in contact with the counselor on call. The counselor will then call the student and assess their situation based on whether they have had a thought, lingering thoughts or planned out a method to commit suicide.
Students can go to the Counseling Center to seek help with other situations like transitioning to college, anger issues, depression, stress, anxiety and addiction. There are support groups for students struggling with these and other issues as well.
For more information about the Counseling and Career Development Center, please call 678-839-6428 or visit Row Hall Room 123.