Peer Educators host events for suicide awareness week

Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor

Chandler Smith, Campus Carrier staff writer

September is suicide awareness month, and this past week Berry arranged several events and sessions to both raise awareness within the student body but also allow students to participate in activities that provided resources and tools to prevent suicide. 

Programs included “Building A Wall Against Stigma” on Tuesday at Krannert as well as building “Anchor Boxes” and a Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) suicide prevention training. These events were hosted by Peer Educators and Chante Hill, project director of suicide prevention. 

“[Suicide] is the most underreported death” Hill said. “But it is also the most preventable. We want to honor those who did pass and did die by suicide and to bring attention to the fact that there are other options and resources for help. The goal this week is making sure that people know that there’s someone who cares and is making an effort to help.”

Peer Educators work to connect students on campus with resources and tools they can use to solve problems commonly experienced by college students. They provide resources and share information including healthy boundaries, relationships with food and use of social media and screentime. Their focus in September is suicide prevention and making Berry students feel supported and seen through their events and workshops.

“What we’re thinking is how we can really bring awareness to this issue and how can we make people realize that it’s not something that’s [a solo thing,]” Peer Educator Mollie Martin said. “The more we talk about it and the more students we get involved in this initiative, the bigger impact we’re going to see.”

Building a Wall Against Stigma was an activity to provide encouragement for people who may have considered or be considering suicide. Students were given red slips of paper to write encouraging notes on. These papers were then mounted on a large piece of paper to form a wall as a symbol of building a wall against the stigma surrounding suicide. It was hung up in Krannert outside of Viking Court. 

“We’d had this idea last year about people writing encouraging notes for people who might be considering suicide and sharing them,” Martin said. “We hung it in Krannert so people can see it every day and see those notes.”

Find Your Anchor is an organization that aims to provide resources for people considering suicide. They manufacture small boxes filled with pamphlets and interactive material such as paper for notes, wristbands and contact information for suicide hotlines and confidential resources on and off campus. The organization was founded in hopes of helping people who have suicidal thoughts form connections and bonds that allow them to feel safe enough to find help.

“Anchor Box is a really amazing program that works to help people considering suicide,” Martin said. “What’s cool about them is the individual person who makes one can add something person, like a handwritten letter or maybe share their story if they considered suicide. You can either give a box to someone or you can leave it in a public area for someone to pick it up if they need it.” 

Guest speaker Stacey Pershall, author of the memoir “Loud in the House of Myself,” held a speaking event on campus where she shared her experiences with depression and borderline personality disorder. She talked about how her experience with suicide and how she took steps into a path of healing and raising awareness.

“Suicide awareness on campus is important because it allows students to feel comfortable enough to talk about their hardships and experiences,” sophomore Ary Flowers, who attended the Build a Wall Against Stigma event, said. “It also brings a sense of stability within the campus because it shows Berry is willing to speak out about and advocate for problems that are hard to even talk about.

QPR sessions will also be held throughout the year. These sessions are designed to license and equip students to be supportive and understanding of others who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and to teach them the proper way to direct them to a place where they can receive help.

“We had a lot of students who were trained in QPR,” Hill said. “We’re working on recruiting some more students who will help with the training as well and sort of carry that on with me.”

The goal with Suicide Awareness on campus is not to desensitize students to the idea of suicide, but rather open conversations and draw attention to the fact that there are ways and places people can get support.

“We’re bringing attention to the act of suicide, and letting people know there are other options. That is what awareness week is about,” Hill said. “In the next few weeks, we’re posting a series of posts on our Instagram about suicide and specific marginalized individual groups, so we’ll have posts about suicide among people of color, suicide among the LGBTQ community, and suicide for athletes and things like that.”

The Berry College Peer Educators will continue posting information on their Instagram can be found @berrypeereds. 

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