Illustration Courtesy of John Roberge/TNS

Breaking the Stigma: NCCU brings students together for World Suicide Prevention Day

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Across the globe college students experience mental health issues at alarming rates. Many students find themselves overwhelmed or helpless to cope with a variety of issues, from family to intimate relationships to work and school related stresses, turn to suicide.

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, the N.C. Central University Counseling Center held an online interactive event called Breaking the Stigma to let students know they are not alone and encourage them to talk about an issue that is not talked about enough.

Partners included the NCCU’s Men’s Achievement Center, Campus Recreation and the Office of Health Promotion & Education – each sharing the resources they offer students.

Assistant director for Clinical Services at NCCU, Birshari Cox, started the annual event followed by Andrew Elman, a counselor at the Counseling Center, who began sharing trends from the past year on college students and mental health.

The trends showed that 32 percent of college students were so depressed that it can affect their ability to function, 51 percent say they sometimes feel overwhelming anxiety, 7 percent say they have seriously considered suicide and 45 percent say they sometimes feel hopeless or helpless.

Some reasons Elman shared about the stigmatization of mental health and suicide was that there are negative attitudes associated with mental health treatment, lack of information or access to resources, confidentiality and feeling to overwhelmed to take the steps to seek help.

“We encourage students to help other peers and think about mental health in kinder and responsive ways,” Elman said.

“Talk about the values of self-care and mental health. Having a discussion can really help dispel some of the stigma around getting mental health treatment.”

Some signs Elman said that indicate suicidal thinking and distress included feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, rage or uncontrolled anger, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, increased drug or alcohol use and withdrawing from family and friends.

If someone is exhibiting these signs and symptoms the Counseling Center recommends being comfortable with the person, asking questions, connecting with them and recommending resources like the Counseling Center or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Counselor William Hitt conducted an interactive game where students answered questions about suicide prevention.

One question was “How Can You Inquire About Someone in A Crisis?” There were brief moments of silence and delayed responses in between the students giving suggestions.

“This is a tough thing and it can be difficult to ask,” Hitt said. “We’ve had students we worked with in the past say ‘don’t put it out in the air,’ meaning if you ask someone about suicide you might make it more likely. But asking them directly is the best way to do it.”

Some suggestions by students were to ask the person what they are going through or reminding them they have a friend.

Hitt finished the activity by saying that help is available on campus and to guide fellow students to the center if they need it.

To end the session Cox gave some final words to encourage students to help those who might be dealing with suicide.

“If you can do something, be the one too,” Cox said.

“You don’t have to do all the steps but if you feel like a loved one, a roommate or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behavior then definitely do one of these steps to help them get support.”

The Counseling Center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m-5 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Health Building and can be contacted by phone at 919-530-7646.

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