September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is rising across the United States and is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for all age groups.
Vanderbilt understands the everyday need for awareness and ensuring that resources are available regarding suicide prevention. The university makes continual efforts to address mental health concerns in our community, including increasing staffing at the Student Care Network (SCN) and expanding programming. SCN is a holistic network of services and resources pertaining to health and wellness available to all Vanderbilt University students who have paid the Student Health Fee.
“Suicide awareness and prevention align with our core values at Vanderbilt and our comprehensive, evidence-based and community-centered approach to mental health and well-being,” said Todd Weinman, director of the University Counseling Center. “By promoting open, inclusive and courageous conversations around difficult topics like suicide, we reduce stigma and break down barriers to seeking help as well as highlight the role each of us can play in support of our caring and connected community.”
SCN is partnering with the Crisis Text Line to roll out “VU Cares” signage around campus in the coming weeks. The goal of these posters is to share positive affirmations and connect students with 24/7 crisis care resources. The Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 confidential service that provides access to trained crisis counselors. Additionally, students may notice “This Dore Cares” hangtags and stickers around campus belonging to faculty and staff who have completed training regarding supporting students in crisis.
Vanderbilt’s chapter of Active Minds hosted an event Sept. 8 to help promote suicide prevention awareness at Vanderbilt. Hundreds of backpacks were spread across Alumni Lawn in a powerful display that shared stories of individuals lost to suicide and provided information on ways to get involved in suicide prevention. SCN staff were on site to provide resources and support.
“We recognize that so many college students and their peers are struggling with their mental health, so our hope with the Send Silence Packing exhibit was to spark a dialogue about mental illness and suicide while also connecting students to resources,” said Doah Shin, co-president of Active Minds at Vanderbilt. “The exhibit also recognized the lives and communities affected by suicide. Oftentimes suicide is associated with statistics and stigma, and we forget the stories of loss and love. Although cliché, above all we wanted people to leave the exhibit knowing that they are not alone and that there is hope.”
Keep the conversation about mental health and well-being moving forward
- Continue learning and exploring action steps with Behind the Backpacks, an interactive, virtual experience that explores how to change the culture around mental health in the everyday.
- If you are struggling, seek help. Seeking help takes strength and courage, and it is well worth the effort. If you suspect someone you know is struggling, encourage them to seek help. Your support could play a key role in their recovery.
- Check in with your loved ones. Find out how they are really doing. It can be easy in our fast-paced world to not check in deeply with those we care about. Let them know that you care about how they are doing by asking questions and actively listening using Active Minds’ tool for everyday conversations.
- Attend the Center for Student Wellbeing’s MAPS (Mental Health Awareness and Prevention of Suicide) training to gain skills to identify and assist those in need due to mental health concerns. Faculty and staff can complete a three-step training program that focuses on supporting student mental health to earn a “This Dore Cares” hangtag/sticker to identify themselves as a support for students in crisis. To schedule for yourself, your office or your department, complete the request form here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or with suicidal ideation, contact:
- University Counseling Center – call 615-322-2571 (press 2 if calling after hours)
- Crisis Text Line – text “VANDY” to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – dial 988
Students with non-urgent concerns should consider attending a University Counseling Center Drop-In Consultation for easy access to informal, confidential and free consultations with UCC providers.
Help and hope are available. You are not alone.