Words of advice, resources and support
September 6th through the 12th are the dates for National Suicide Prevention Week. This time is dedicated to bringing awareness to the topic of suicide, as well as a moment to discuss how to be better educated on topics surrounding prevention.
Mental health in general, but especially suicide, are not topics that most people feel comfortable discussing. For many, mental health is still heavily stigmatized and suicide is not a topic they can easily discuss.
So, this week, I spoke to three individuals, an NDSU alumnus, a current NDSU student and the student leader of the The Green Bandana Project on campus. These discussions are a reminder of the prevalence of mental health issues, not just in our nation but right here in our university’s community.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.. In 2018 alone, 48,344 Americans died by suicide and there were a total of 1.4 million suicide attempts made. What, then, can we do differently, not just as individuals dealing with suicidal ideation but also as loved ones to those who are?
Kelsey Young, a 2019 graduate who majored in Management Communication, talked about what suicide awareness means to her, “To me, it is about validating [suicide’s] existence and showing support to those who have gone or are going through a battle with suicide in some capacity.”
For Kelsey, the topic is one that has been prevalent in her life on multiple fronts, “I have lost someone to suicide. It is also something that I have struggled with off and on over the years.”
A current sophomore in the Arts, Humanities and Social Science college, who wishes to remain anonymous, discussed their experience with suicide as well, “I have personally dealt with being suicidal and with having attempted suicide, and also having someone in my community commit suicide, so I know what the aftermaths of it are.”
To them, suicide awareness is, “a time to really show people how much suicide affects kids and adults alike, and how you never know if someone close to you is feeling suicidal.”
For the entire month of September, mental health advocates, survivors and allies come together to share stories and help those looking for resources find them. Bringing awareness to the issue is a key part of Suicide Prevention Week, as Kelsey and the current student can attest.
Both of the survivors I spoke with offered advice to those dealing with suicidal ideation. Kelsey recommended the following, “Reach out to someone. Talk to someone. Do not let yourself be completely alone in it.”
Kelsey also suggested having a safety plan; a way to understand the signs that can point towards a depressive episode and ways to keep your mind off of suicidal thoughts. The plan, “also outlines what I can do by myself to keep myself safe as well as who I can reach out to… It also includes a list of emergency contacts if things get out of hand.”
As a reminder, the current sophomore student said to those struggling with suicidal thoughts, “There are so many people around you that you may not even realize love and care for you so, so much. You’re always surrounded by people who want nothing but the best for you. I would reach out to a professional for help, but start with just telling a friend that you’re not feeling too great and need some help.”
They also recommend seeing a therapist and talking with friends. All NDSU students have access to the Counseling Center, for those who may be worried about the cost of a therapist or don’t know where to initially find help.
On NDSU’s campus, we have an organization called The Green Bandana Project. I spoke with their student leader, Halie Van Vleet, who described the group: “The Green Bandana Project is a mental health support and advocacy initiative that creates a visual support system around campus for anyone struggling with mental health-related issues.”
“After attending a short training session, students attach a provided green bandana to their backpack to show they have pledged to be a safe individual to approach… and that they know where resources are.”
For those individuals who might be looking for someone to talk to or an easy first step towards finding help, know that any individual on campus with a green bandana on their backpack is an ally for you.
Halie discussed the most important resources for those who might be dealing with suicidal ideation, “The most important resource we share is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides 24/7 help at 1-800-273-8255 or their text line that can be reached [at] 741741. NDSU offers in-person and virtual resources from the Counseling Center, Student Health Service, and the University Police.”
The important thing to remember if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts is that there are people who want to help, who want to listen. Your story is not a burden and what you’re going through is a journey you don’t have to face alone.
If you’re interested in helping people, there are steps you can take as well. The sophomore student I spoke with discussed that offering yourself to listen to what someone is saying is one of the best things you can do. At the same time, it’s important to avoid saying certain phrases, “Things that haven’t been as helpful are people telling me that ‘Everybody gets sad,’ ‘There’s always someone who has it worse,’ ‘Get over yourself.’”
Comments that condescend such as these take validity away from the struggle someone dealing with suicidal thoughts is going through and are likely to only push a person further away from those who might actually help.
Similarly, Kelsey added that offering to be there for someone and help is the most useful thing you can do, but you should avoid saying that it is just in the person’s head, that they’re looking for attention or that they should just ignore it.
Legitimizing and emphasizing that another person’s feelings are real and that they are heard is one of the best things you can do as an ally to those going through a difficult time. Halie too recommended straying from passing judgment, “We don’t want to say ‘You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?’ or ‘Think of what this would do to your parents.’ When having the conversation about suicide with someone, you want to [remain] compassionate and kind and listen to what they are saying.”
The National Alliance on Mental Health notes how suicidal individuals may often feel scared of sharing their feelings for fear of rejection or don’t believe what they feel is worthwhile of discussion with others. Know that if you are dealing with these thoughts, everything you feel is absolutely real and you have every right to be heard.
Suicide is a systemic problem that is likely to affect each and every one of us either directly or indirectly. Mental health is something we should all care about and is as real as any physical injury, we sometimes just can’t see how deep the wounds go when they’re in a person’s brain.
If you’re interested in continuing to prevent suicide, get involved in The Green Bandana Project; their information can be found through the Residence Life website. Additionally, the Out of the Darkness Suicide Awareness Walk is on September 20th (the link can be found on The Green Bandana Project’s page).
And if you feel like you’re struggling with mental health, please utilize the resources provided in the article. Know there are many of us that want to hear your story and we will be here whenever you’re ready to share.