Annual Suicide Prevention Week starts on campus

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The Counseling and Mental Health Center showcases signs discussing Suicide Prevention Week. The initiative, which started in 2009 aims to promote awareness and self-care.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The Counseling and Mental Health Center began its annual “Suicide Prevention Week” on Monday to combat death by suicide, which, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Suicide Prevention Week first took place at the University in 2009 and primarily focuses on spreading awareness and promoting self-care. Monday’s event aimed to inform students on the importance of listening to those who are struggling with mental health.

Marian Trattner, suicide prevention coordinator for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, or CMHC, said it is important to show students the issue exists and empower them to gain the skills and knowledge to combat the problem. According to Trattner, 18 percent of undergraduate students have seriously considered suicide, and 8 percent of them have made a suicide attempt.

“While those numbers are really hard to hear, the good news is that we can prevent suicide by talking about it and by letting students know, who are suffering in silence, that they are not alone, that people care about them and that there are resources on campus to help,” Trattner said.

The CMHC will hold events through Thursday, addressing ways to reduce the risk of suicide, promote self-care, highlight firearm safety and inform students on how they can be support systems for their peers. Jane Morgan Bost, associate director for the CMHC, said the department aims to detach any shame that is associated with suicide.

“We’re trying to raise awareness for an issue that, a lot of times, has shame connected to it,” Bost said. “We’re trying to bring it out of the shadows and into the light.”

Bost said, since she started working at the University 23 years ago, she has noticed a paradigm shift away from the stigma associated with going to the CMHC for aid.

“I find that more and more people are feeling … less reluctant about coming to get help,” Bost said. “However, we still have students who have told me the hardest thing they’ve ever done is coming to the counseling center.”

The CMHC offers individual counseling as well as a 24/7 “crisis line” for students to call to speak with trained staff about urgent concerns. Trattner said students can get involved by volunteering to help spread awareness, even though the counseling center is staffed by mental health clinicians.

Neurobiology senior Maisha Rumman has been volunteering to help plan the week since the early summer and said she is involved with the CMHC because she believes everyone is susceptible to struggling with mental health.

“I have friends and family who have mental health problems, and I’ve experienced firsthand how damaging it can be to your family and your life,” Rumman said. “I feel strongly that, at some time in your life, you’re going to encounter someone with these problems. That’s the reason I got involved.”