With suicide rates escalating across college campuses, SLU is at the forefront of suicide prevention and education. This past week, SLU’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center orchestrated Suicide Prevention Week, in order to express to students that there simply is no SLU without you. Campus Rec and Wellness demonstrated their care and genuine concern for students by passing out complimentary donuts on West Pine, as well as hosting destress events like free fitness classes and a ‘dive-in’ Disney movie. Throughout the week, students also had the opportunity to sign the “U Matter” pledge to show their committment to being proactive with suicide prevention in their own lives, and the lives of others.
SLU has piloted Suicide Prevention Week for the past several years, with their mission being to spread awareness of the resources and support available on campus for students to turn to. Jodi Seals, the Assistant Director of Health Education and Promotion for the Campus Rec and Wellness Center, has been an active leader of the event the past two years.
Seals speaks on the importance of starting the conversation about suicide on college campuses. “We know that teens and young adults are the most vulnerable population when it comes to suicidal ideation and we want our students to know we want them here and that we have resources to help them,” she said.
With suicide being a leading cause of death for those 15-24 years old, it is deafingly clear that suicide is a grim, yet urgent matter that needs to be addressed.
Seals recognizes the weight of the matter, and hopes to alleviate it by showing students that that they do matter and are cared for, with her overarching goal being “For students to see us advocating for their mental health and providing activities for stress relief and mental health resources.”
Furthermore, according to the CDC, more than half of people who died from suicide were never diagnosed with any mental health condition. This is where SLU’s preventative efforts seek to make a difference. Through initatives like Suicide Prevention Week, SLU aims to put its resources out there to encourage those that need help to seek it, as well as to reassure them that others want to help and that they are not alone.
Seals acknowledges the specialized support system that SLU students have in the university. “SLU takes very seriously our mission of Cura Personalis and supporting our students in Mind, Body, and Spirit. We provide direct support from the Dean of Students, DPS, Student Health, and the University Counseling Center for students who are in crisis, while also putting preventative measures in place to help students reach out before they are in crisis. Many staff and faculty will be going through mental health first aid training this fall and spring to guide as many people as possible who have contact with students to be in positions to help.”
With the largest freshman class in the history of the university on campus this year, SLU has taken action to expand the resources and support it offers for mental health and suicide prevention to account for this.
Seals commented on the enlargement of her own department, “Our Campus Recreation and Wellness team has grown this year in order to support more students, so we now have a GA for Wellness and soon adding a Wellness Coordinator for Mental Health and Wellness,” she added.
Students are encouraged to learn and carry out suicide prevention techniques in their own lives — as it might just save someone else. The university offers the online module titled “Ask. Listen. Refer.” to all students, in order to train them to identify warning signs of potential suicide ideation, as well as how to respond to it in a safe manner. This way, students can feel prepared in the case they themselves, or someone they know, is at risk for suicide.
Other events on campus that will promote healthy minds and actions include Healthy Campus Week, which takes place all of next week, as well as Mental Illness Awareness Week, happening October 7th-11th. The Campus Rec and Wellness Center will also be partnering with another group on campus, Active Minds, to provide further suicide prevention initiatives and programming, including campus participation in the Out of the Darkness Walk on September 9th, at Creve Coeur Park. These efforts will complement and continue the conversation about suicide prevention on campus.
Seals reminds students of the plethora of accessible resources right on SLU’s campus, including the University Counseling Center. Counseling services are free of charge to all SLU students.
She advises that if you or another student you know is contemplating suicide or self-harm, to contact the University Counseling Center to set up an appoitment right away. They can be contacted during normal business hours for scheduling. For more urgent, or after hour matters, students can reach an on-call University Counseling Center staff member at 314-977-8255 (TALK). If preferred, off-campus resources she recommends include the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), as well as Provident Behavioral Health, located in St. Louis.