Change Starts with Us

SEP. 10, 2014

As college students begin the new academic year, there is one subject that all of them should be focused on, regardless of their major. Suicide is a subject that most people don’t talk about until a tragedy happens, yet it remains the second leading cause of death among college students. Campuses need to provide more education to stem the tide.

It is National Suicide Prevention Month so there is no time like now to start. Suicides have devastated families and college communities across the country. The overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide live with a mental health condition. They need access to effective mental health services and supports as early as possible.

How do we address this public health crisis? So often after a suicide, the community is left wondering, how did this happen and what went wrong? There is certainly more we can do. We can start with educating and informing college communities about the warning signs of mental health conditions, suicide and how to help a friend.

In 2012, NAMI released College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health, documenting the experiences of college students living with mental health conditions. Students who responded to NAMI’s national survey called for far more education and information about mental illnesses on campuses. They expressed the critical need to educate students, administrators, faculty and staff about mental illness.

With this in mind, NAMI developed a toolkit to educate and inform. It includes:

  • An engaging presentation covering the warning signs and how to help a friend.
  • A step-by-step guide on how to present the material, complete with discussion questions.
  • Fact sheets to reinforce information presented.
  • Customizable flyers and social media posts as an easy way to get the word out.
  • A customizable template on the mental health resources and information on campus.
  • Videos to share through social media to increase conversations about mental health.

There is great hope in the rapid expansion of NAMI on Campus clubs across the country. These clubs raise awareness and advocate for better and more accessible mental health services and supports on college campuses. They make it OK to talk about mental health issues, decrease stigma and bring hope.

People experiencing a mental health condition often feel isolated and alone. This can be especially difficult for college students who are away from home and under tremendous academic and social pressure. The more we can reach students, resident advisors, faculty and staff with information, the better equipped they will be to help. We can all play a part in lifting the shame and stigma that all too often hold people down.

Together we can stem the tide. Change starts with us.

If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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