New state law requires incoming students to watch suicide prevention video

Anusha Lalani

Starting this summer, all incoming and transfer students will be required to watch a new video about mental health resources and suicide prevention during orientation because of a newly implemented state law.

Senate Bill 1624, which went into effect June 18 last year, requires incoming college students to be informed about mental health and suicide prevention. The video was released April 21 by a task force managed by UT and comprised of public and private higher education institutions from across the state. Mark and Kathleen Walker proposed the bill after their son Lee, a UT student, died by suicide in May 2014.

After the University shows the video at orientation, students will also receive a link to it by email. Current incoming students must complete online alcohol awareness modules and view videos about campus resources and safety, but there is no specific required video about mental health.

Chris Brownson, director of the University’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, who led the task force along with the Texas University Counseling Center Director’s Association, said the video is essential because students should have some basic knowledge on the early signs of mental health issues or suicidal thoughts. 

“Giving people the tools to know how to deal with those situations and what resources are available on campus can save a life,” Brownson said.

TUCCDA president-elect Andrew Miller said the video emphasizes a bystander intervention approach, encouraging students to notice early signs of mental health issues or thoughts of suicide in their peers and report this right away. This approach will be more effective when dealing with people who have mental health issues because students find it easier to relate to their peers than professionals, Miller said. 

“So the idea to use students to deliver that message makes it more likely that the individuals we’re targeting will hear about the information and pass it on,”
Miller said. 

Electrical engineering senior Salim Memon, who knows a college student who died by suicide, said the video teaches students how to deal with this sensitive topic. 

“It gives them the idea that they can reach out to an advisor or other students who they’re close to,” Memon said. “It gives tips on how to approach it as well, which is ideally very important because students normally can be confused as to how to approach a delicate situation such as this.”