With September being suicide awareness month, East Carolina University's counseling center is hosting numerous events to encourage students to talk about suicide and mental health despite the stigmas around it.
Staff Counselor Lauren Thorn, who also serves as the outreach coordinator, said they are hosting an event about mental health on campus today at 4 p.m., along with Fresh Check Day on Nov. 2, which gives students the opportunity to check up on their mental health. Other events like suicide awareness week and tabling events were held earlier this month.
“We’re really just trying to get the message out there,” Thorn said.
In addition, the counseling center offers year-round services to students in need. The counseling center is open for appointments Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., where students can meet with licensed counselors like Thorn.
“One of the things we do throughout our work, is we’re here to ask the hard questions,” Thorn said.
In every assessment, the counselors are responsible for identifying the difference between suicidal thoughts and actually following through with them. They also offer information on emergency services such as the ECU Crisis Center, crisis text line, chat options and the Trevor Project, which is a national suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.
Students also can join organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms that help get the message of suicide and mental health awareness out. Vice President of TWLOHA Brittany George, who is a junior family and community services major, said she has experienced and witnessed the struggles people face with mental health.
“My sister has attempted suicide numerous times,” George said. “On top of that, I struggle with anxiety and depression. It has been a long road, but I’m grateful for clubs like TWLOHA that encourage awareness and talking about the problems.”
TWLOHA started in 2006 by a student whose sister committed suicide, and George joined the club last spring. She said she joined the club to develop a support system and help raise awareness for the issue of mental health and suicide.
“People need people,” George said. “We want to reach students with mental health struggles and those who struggle with self-harm and suicide.”
Likewise, Thorn said she believes communication is key. She said to not be afraid to talk to a friend who seems like they’re struggling.
“Just being able to let someone know, ‘hey I’m worried about you’ to ‘I don’t want to damage our friendship, but if you want to talk about something I’m here,’” Thorn said. “Just by leaving that door open, that if someone has interaction with you, this person will listen.”
Coping issues are a big reason why students commit suicide, said Thorn. Students who feel alone and trapped feel like suicide is their only option.
“Some people don’t know that it’s okay to talk,” George said. “It’s a big problem, and not many people realize how big of an issue it is.”
According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control in 2013, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people 15-34 years-old. It also said 7.4 percent of 18-24 year-olds have suicidal thoughts.