University encourages suicide prevention awareness


Marisa Vasquez

Elizabeth Wilson, a counseling psychology graduate student, talks about suicide prevention in the Union Tuesday evening. Wilson told students the warning signs of suicide and ways to help people get counseling.

Lazaro Hernandez

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, a statistic UT Counseling and Mental Health Center officials hope can be minimized by raising awareness in the campus community.

Monday marked the beginning of UT’s fourth annual Suicide Prevention Week, organized by the Counseling and Mental Health Center. Throughout the week, the center will present seven interactive programs focusing on topics like learning to cope with a death by suicide and recognizing the signs of suicidal thoughts.

“We want to help remove the stigma from suicide prevention and mental health,” health education coordinator Marian Trattner said. “This week is in place to make students aware that there are resources out there to support them.”

Trattner said an average of three UT students die by suicide each year, which is consistent with the national average. Eighteen percent of undergraduate students in the United States have seriously considered suicide, said Jane Bost, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center.

Trattner said organizers are changing this year’s suicide prevention week so it has a greater focus on social media and its role in suicide prevention. She said students are urged to follow UT’s Counseling and Health Services on Twitter and post any questions they may have about suicide or suicide prevention using the hashtag #SPWChat. The Twitter conversation will continue throughout the week using the hashtag #UTSPW. The center is also presenting an interactive program on suicide prevention via social networking sites Wednesday.

“There has been an increase in the media about people who reach out and cry out about suicide through social media, particularly through Facebook and Twitter,” Trattner said. “Since we have these outlets and tools, we want to continue to use them in a positive way.”

Bethanie Olivan, president of the UT chapter of To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit movement aimed at helping people struggling with depression, self-injury and suicide, said she thinks the problem is prevalent in college students because of the stressors present during that time in their life.

“Our identities aren’t totally clear yet, so many people end up rooting their identities in grades and how others perceive them,” Olivan said. “When things in these realms go wrong, it can lead to a sense of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.”

Bost said one of the goals of Suicide Prevention Week is to encourage students to take advantage of all of the suicide prevention resources the University has available. The UT Counseling and Mental Health Center offers in-house psychiatric services, stress reduction exercises and free year-round telephone counseling to help students deal with depression and suicidal thoughts.

“There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about your struggle,” Olivan said. “Reaching out for help is the best thing you can do and is a sign of strength. Therapy or medication can be the difference between life and death.”

Suicide Prevention Week ends Friday at the Texas Union building in room 3.116 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. with a workshop aimed at teaching students to recognize the signs of suicidal thoughts in their friends and refer them to professional help.

Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Suicide prevention week informs students