Opinion | Suicide prevention is a year-round effort

This Q&A discusses suicide prevention and mental health.

Ava Fisher, Opinions Editor

As September comes to a close, students must reflect on the significance of National Suicide Prevention Month. While the month is a great way to raise awareness for suicide prevention, students’ roles in improving mental health lasts throughout the year. 

In 2010, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that suicide was the second leading cause of death for college students. 

College students are facing a widespread mental health crisis, and we need to act now. Suicide awareness cannot be limited to one month of the year. We must be aware, educated and equipped so that we can address the mental health issues facing our campus all year.

We must start by confronting the stigma surrounding mental health. By treating mental health as a taboo subject, we are doing a disservice to other students, our campus and ourselves. 

I asked Garrett Burnett, president of Students Tide Against Suicide, how students can educate themselves on suicide prevention and mental health. After a year of isolation, Garrett is excited to continue the fight toward eliminating suicide. 

Q: What does Students Tide Against Suicide do?

A: Students Tide Against Suicide has four main goals:

  1. Spread awareness for suicide prevention.
  2. Host events centered around promoting health and wellbeing and shattering the stigma surrounding mental health.
  3. Provide educational resources for identification, first response and prevention of suicide.
  4. Share testimonies and provide an open space to discuss mental health.

Q: Why was the organization formed?

A: Tide Against Suicide was formed as a comprehensive and holistic approach to suicide prevention spanning prevention, intervention and “postvention” — intervention aimed at loved ones of those who have died by suicide — services. Tide Against Suicide is rooted in the Zero Suicide Initiative, which has a goal of eliminating suicide. Tide Against Suicide brings together faculty, staff and students to strive towards this goal of zero instances of suicide.

Q: What is the value of National Suicide Prevention Month?

A: Suicide Prevention Month is an excellent opportunity for people to realize the importance of prioritizing their own mental health. As you may have seen during the month of September, Instagram timelines and stories were flooded with inspirational messages and stories regarding mental health and suicide prevention, but the fight to eliminate suicide doesn’t just exist in September. We all must work together year-round to educate ourselves and shatter the stigma surrounding mental health.

Q: What do you wish students and professors knew about suicide prevention?

A: Suicide is a topic that many people don’t want to talk about whatsoever, but there are so many resources on campus that students and faculty can use to educate themselves on mental health topics. Eliminating suicide is an achievable goal, but we all must work together to reach it.

Q: What is an action that students could take right now for suicide prevention?

A: Students can register to take the Question, Persuade, Refer training via the Counseling Center website. This training is led by Counseling Center staff and is a valuable opportunity on campus. It lasts only 90 minutes, but the information you learn will last a lifetime. At the end of the training, attendees receive informational handouts regarding suicide prevention and mental health in addition to a better understanding of suicide prevention methods.

Q: What can students do about the stigma surrounding mental health?

A: The first step to shattering the stigma surrounding mental health is having open conversations. By having conversations about mental health with your friends, family and others, you are directly helping to reduce the stigma. Additionally, we encourage students to become more educated about mental health topics. The Counseling Center hosts valuable workshops through the Mind Matters series in addition to other programming.

Q: What are your favorite mental health resources on campus?

A: The Mind Matters Workshop Series is a wonderful, free resource for students. It covers a wide range of topics that specifically impact college students. Additionally, the Counseling Center website has compiled a list of excellent resources that can be found on their website under the resources tab. These include educational videos, tips, techniques and workshops.

Q: Do you have any interesting events coming up that students should know about?

A: We are hosting Suicide Awareness Week the first week of October. Additionally, we are setting up 1,100 flags on the Quad during that week to represent the 1,100 suicides that occur on college campuses every year. We are encouraging students to write notes on the flags, and we will be tabling at the UA Student Center very soon to work on this project.

Q: What other resources can students consult to become more educated on suicide prevention?

A: Zero Suicide, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Action Alliance, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: Follow us on Instagram @uatideagainstsuicide.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. 

Editor’s Note: This Q&A was edited for length and clarity.