Spotlight: Suicide Prevention

by Felisa Cardenas 0

In 2013, 1,100 college students took their lives, making college students the second largest demographic affected by suicide. Three of those students attended College of the Canyons, putting the college’s statistic higher in comparison to others.

None of those students sought help from the Student Health and Wellness Center. Larry Schallert, Interim Director of the Student Heath Program and Coordinator of Student Health Services, can only speculate as to why. Perhaps the students did not know that the health center is located in the hallway across from the bookstore or what services are available to students.

What many students don’t know is that by enrolling in classes, whether part-time or full-time, and paying the Student Health fee they are eligible for six free counseling sessions, or more if needed.

The Student Health and Wellness Center offers a variety of services that are completely confidential (with certain legal exceptions), such as medical treatments and counseling. They even can help link students with resources in the community if necessary. “We don’t talk to parents, administrators, teachers, or your friends,” reassures Schallert. “College is stress, we can help.”

The Health and Wellness Center also offers a variety of outreach events throughout the semester that focus on suicide prevention with trainings for teachers and staff about recognizing signs of distressed students and how to advise them about services offered through the college.

Students can also receiving training by taking a Mental Health First Aid Certification course, which is offered three to four times a year. Or students can log onto Cognito Online for suicide prevention. Log onto the website and click College of the Canyons to access five training sessions.

Schallert advises students who think someone they care for is contemplating suicide, “It’s okay to ask if they’re think of taking their life. We don’t like to say committing- it’s not a sin, it’s not a crime- are you thinking of taking your life? Assess your friends, listen non-judgmentally and try to find out what’s going on.”

Signs to be aware of in loved ones who may be contemplating suicide include:

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Feeling major distress
  • Withdrawal
  • Giving their things away
  • Their alcohol intake increases
  • They start acting depressed

A major sign to lookout for is if someone has an organized plan of how they will take their life. It’s also important to note that someone is at high risk of taking their life if they have had someone they know or love take their life or attempted to take their life.

While it may be a difficult topic to discuss with your friends and loved ones, Gayle Freund, Program Specialist at the Student Health and Wellness Center, advises students, “What we’re finding is if someone is communicating about it, if someone has hope, then the chance of them completing suicide and going threw it are lessened.”

The goal? “Recovery and to instill hope,” says Freund.

She also realizes that there are times when students will be alone, such as after hours when the Health and Wellness Center is closed and a tool is needed to help a friend who is contemplating suicide or having suicidal thoughts. Perhaps they need someone who is trained and can help talk them through the crisis. That tool is the National Suicide Hotline, 1(800) 273-TALK (8255). Who should have this number saved in their phone? “Every student, every teacher, and every faculty member,” advises Freund.

Schallert also wants students to be aware that the counseling staff at the Health and Wellness Center are licensed therapist who can help you for any reason, such as stress- test taking, mental health, depression- problems with relationships, domestic violence, or even “life issues. We have very qualified mental health therapist on virtually anything.”

The Student Health and Wellness Center has a strong connection with the Veterans Center on campus as well. “The Veterans Center on campus have combat and service veterans who are licensed therapist who can help veterans with stress issues they may have,” says Schallert.

The Health and Wellness Center  is currently in the process in developing their “Safe Zone” project where students and staff train on issues related to the LGBTQ community and create safe zones around campus for LGBTQ students to go and where they will feel comfortable.

While those you care for may feel hopeless, it’s important to remind them that there is always a silver lining.

“People can recover, you can recover from this. There is hope,” says Schallert. It’s important to encourage your loved ones who are contemplating suicide to get help, give them reassurance, and help them find resources that can help them.

For more information log onto the Student Health and Wellness Center website here.

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