The Binghamton University Spine became a hub for students and staff sporting ribbons and temporary tattoos to support National Suicide Prevention Day.
Founded in 2000 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Day is meant to be a day of hope and recognition. Undergraduate interns tabled for the Mental Health Outreach Peer Educators (M-HOPE), Real Education About College Health (REACH) and the Dean’s Team on the Spine, where 1,100 yellow flags representing the 1,100 student suicides each year nationwide were planted.
This was the second annual commemoration on campus. Additional student groups such as Active Minds, an organization dedicated to the destigmatization of mental health, participated this year. Yellow ribbons were handed out to symbolize hope and suicide prevention, and temporary semicolon tattoos were given out, illustrating how an author could choose to end a sentence, but instead decides to pause and go on.
According to LeAnna Rice, the event coordinator and BU’s mental health outreach counselor, mental health has become an important topic across campus and the world.
“We really need to be taking care of each other, making sure we’re OK and that everybody knows the resources available to them,” Rice said.
Information was available about the University Counseling Center and hotlines available such as the Binghamton Crisis Center hotline. Rice said there were no suicide deaths in the last two years on BU’s campus. However, a study from George Mason University shows that eight to 10 percent of students are thinking about suicide.
Patricia Rourke, a senior counselor with BU’s counseling services, said that the tattoos they gave out spark conversations that help spread awareness.
“One of the biggest ways to help one another is just being mindful and listening to other people, noticing your friends, noticing people, seeing if they look like they’re a little down,” Rourke said. “Be approachable, be accepting and let go of judgments.”
Cards with suicide prevention hotline numbers were distributed and interns for REACH and M-HOPE used a “gatekeeper” approach to engage students. These “gatekeepers” of campus, or those who directly interact with those in distress but are not mental health professionals, are trained to recognize signs of suicide through conversation: these include all 238 resident assistants and members of various organizations. Their approaches range from asking distressed students how classes are to asking whether they are thinking about ending their lives.
Tori Pena, a sophomore double-majoring in psychology and anthropology, said that students need to take action regarding mental health problems.
“It’s a really big issue and we need to acknowledge it more so we can take care of the problem,” Pena said. “When somebody says they’re depressed or having a hard time, we need to stop and listen.”
Sonia Reyes, an intern for M-HOPE and a sophomore majoring in sociology, said there had been a strong response from students passing by.
“The turnout has been really good, a lot of students have stayed, listened to what we had to say and put out a flag for one of the students’ lives that were lost,” Reyes said. “It’s been a really powerful, enriching day.”
The photo previously published with this story was from mitzvah marathon, not National Suicide Prevention Day.