“Suicide is on the rise on college campuses. It is the second-leading cause of death among college students. It’s the eleventh cause of death worldwide,” said Shanice White at the A Dose of Reality: Suicide Prevention Program hosted by Jackson State University’s Department of Student Affairs, OutSpoken Arts Collective, and the Latasha Norman Counseling Center on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
White, lead therapist for the center, explained the event was necessary for JSU students to understand that they can go to a safe place on campus when experiencing any form of mental distress.
“Or, if they have something suddenly happen to them like a death or a breakup, we want them to know that they have people available to help them with that,” she added.
The prevention program educated attendees on warning signs, risk factors, statistics and treatment options.Counselor for the center, Antonio Horton told the audience: “We basically want to make sure you guys are OK. We know that every 15.2 seconds someone attempts suicide and we know that every 38 seconds someone actually commits suicide.”
Although there is an increase in the number of students using the counseling center’s services, Horton said that college students miss warning signs due to a lack of information and misunderstanding.
“Based on the National Alliance on Mental Illness that’s the number one reason – lack of information. We don’t recognize the signs, and if we don’t recognize the signs then we’re going to underestimate the impact of what depression and anxiety can lead to,” said Horton, who also serves as project coordinator of ONE S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault Free Environment) JSU, an initiative that works to eradicate abuse and make the campus a safe environment for all people.
During a Q & A segment, one young man asked how to quiet suicidal thoughts. Horton responded by explaining the importance of being able to identify signs leading up to a person contemplating taking his or her life.
“When you notice that you stop doing things that you love, when you notice changes in your eating habits, when you notice changes in your sleeping habits, those are risk factors. Those are indicators that it’s time to reach out for help,” he stated.
Horton also explained that it was his personal belief that everyone experiences some form of depression as a result of the stress that comes from living in a world inundated with pain, tragedy, and misfortune. However, he reiterated the significance of seeking help when life’s pressures appear to become unbearable.
Princess Hollins, peer educator for ONE S.A.F.E., also spoke to students about gender-based violence, which includes stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. “In the event that you or a friend have encountered any of these things, please reach out to us for support,” she encouraged.
Hollins shared that a lot of students are attending colleges out of state and leaving behind their comfort zones and support systems. “We’re coming to a new environment meeting all types of people. We’re juggling different roles; being a student, working full time and engaging in all the activities around campus,” she said. “There’s a lot that we have to deal with, so we may not be able to recognize when we need to reach out for help.”
Jonet Washington and Jasmine Thomas, members of OutSpoken, gave emotional performances that spoke to the theme of the event.
Thomas, a graduate student, presented “Places in My Mind,” an original spoken word piece that chronicled her battle with clinical depression that eventually led to a suicide attempt.
“I wrote that piece to let people know that it’s a process. People just don’t wake up and decide that they want to commit suicide today. It’s a journey that leads to that moment,” she shared.
Washington, a senior, belted out an acapella version of the song “Hero” by Mariah Carey because she wanted to uplift those who may be battling inner demons.
“The song calls for people to find the strength within, for them to look inside themselves and find something greater than the world has to offer,” said the mass communications major.
The song choice seemed to be a perfect complement to an imperfect subject if one takes the time to review some of the lyrics.
There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
Ari Parker, an elementary education major, called the event “helpful and informative.” She also added that the presentation made her feel comfortable and not “weird” to discuss a sensitive topic like suicide.
The faculty and staff members in attendance agreed that all people should learn about suicide and preventive measures.
“I think us as black people, we don’t pay attention to a lot (psychologically) but if our arm, leg or foot hurts then we’ll go see a doctor about it,” said Tasha Watson, office manager at the center for student engagement and leadership.
“If we’re hurting mentally, emotionally then we also need to see a doctor about that as well. We need to pray like our momma’s told us but we also need to seek help.”
For more information about the Latasha Norman Counseling Center, click here.