In college, it appears the stigma surrounding depression and suicide causes students to be more ‘mum’s the word’ when it comes to receiving help, so what has Ohio University done to address the problem?
I remember writing a couple stories for The Post regarding the stigma that surrounds getting assistance when someone is struggling with a mental health disorders. One organization sought to do that by trying to provide an environment that was open and safe to share feelings of depression and ridding the supposed stigma surrounding it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XndeBNdYOg This clip from WOUB at OU managed to interview several people on their thoughts of suicide on campus and how OU is planning to address the situation involving several incidents over the last couple of years.
After several incidents happened on Ohio University’s campus where students expressed suicidal thoughts through social media, graffiti and even, a completed suicide in a residence hall and an attempt from a student jumping from the Richland Avenue Bridge.
Post-It!, a student organization on Ohio University’s campus, tries to promote the education of suicide prevention and mental health awareness on campus after several incidents prompted a single question:
“Are more students struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts than originally thought?”
It would appear so, enough where OU Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones started the Suicide Coalition on campus, so that students and faculty receive training so that in an event of an emergency, they would be better prepared for how to handle a situation.
“It kind of happened simultaneously,” Hall-Jones said in a Post article. “We need to get together and get gatekeeper training. … It sparked my own interest — could we be doing something differently?”
With that in mind, the Suicide Coalition hoped to reach students on campus that there is an outlet to speak out if they’re struggling with depression or if they’re afraid to go and seek help.
“This is a very important issue that confronts all college campuses,” OU Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi said in the article. “I applaud my colleagues for starting this initiative, and I look forward to seeing the momentum grow around supporting students who are struggling with these issues.”
However, OU administrators aren’t the only ones taking a stand for those who aren’t able to do so themselves.
Student organizations also were born from the concept of helping others find a voice if the stigma surrounding depression proved too embarrassing to go and seek help. Some sought to express their thoughts through other mediums, including an incident in Glidden Hall last year.
One such organization was Post-IT! at OU. After leaving several Post-IT! notes on a graffiti wall where an unknown individual scripted a despairing message, Bethany Logan and her friend had left a pad of sticky notes and permanent markers for others to leave a message for the individual.
This organization was started after several sticky notes with inspiring messages were left on a railing of the Richland Avenue bridge where one OU student attempted suicide. With that in mind, Logan decided it was time to act and that students have to find a way of expressing their thoughts without feeling the fear of being scrutinized by others who may not necessarily think depression is an illness.
One of the organization’s members Jaimee Plantinga, had lost a friend to suicide, the student Terrence Ambrose, who was found dead in his residence hall room. She believed the mission of the organization also help serve as a memorial to Ambrose.
“We want to keep the memories of loved ones alive, help those who are struggling with mental health (problems) and help those who are grieving,” Plantinga said in a Post article.
Eventually, Post-IT! took root on OU’s campus while hosting several events that were During last year’s event hosted by Post-IT!, Taylor Baird, an OU freshman studying music education, shared her struggles with suicidal thoughts after being sexually assaulted. She shared her experiences of her time at a mental healthcare facility and finding the courage to seek help for her depression. She also mentioned that it was important not to let others influence their decisions in how they’re feeling emotionally.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re feeling,” Baird said in a Post article. “Let people help you. You have to learn how to cope with it in healthy ways.”
Baird went on to share her testimony that there is a light in the darkness, even if at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be hope.
Hall-Jones took notice of the organization’s efforts and even served as speaker for the candlelight vigil that Post-IT! put together.
“Groups that form to support each other represent the truest sense of our community as a Bobcat family. I am proud of these students for their effort and outreach,” Hall-Jones said in a Post article.
Even though the campus may have been more outward in expressing their thoughts, it’s still unclear how many students are suffering in the silence alone. However, the number of incidents on campus might not really mean there’s an increase in depression.
“I’m not sure that I think these are on the rise (related to the past few years), but perhaps students are being more public about their thoughts,” Lombardi said. “It has been very positive to see the support that fellow Bobcats show to these students.”
Beth Schnipke, a former OU student said in a previous Post article that her friend on campus had attempted suicide. The effects, even crippling emotionally.
“I was really scared, and I felt like it was somewhat my fault, like I wasn’t a good enough friend,” Schnipke said in the Post article. “I think students are afraid of what people will think of them if they seek help. I do think that there’s a stigma about depressed or suicidal thoughts.”
However, Schnipke said in the interview that OU was going in the right direction and that the stigma surrounding depression and suicide must be gone entirely.
“I hope that it gets people to take mental health more seriously and erases some of the negative stigma with talking to a therapist or even talking to your friends about getting help,” she said in the article. “If even one person’s life is saved, then it’s worth it.”