I’ve been jokingly referring to this week as my College Tour.
I trekked two hours to Russellville, Arkansas, to teach a safeTALK course to 20 Arkansas Tech University Career Center instructors. There I met an assortment of people and professionals. We had hard discussions about how close to home this issue was for them and the difficulties we face when navigating the many situations we can have thrust upon us. The world seemed small when several in the room shared a tragic encounter. No matter how small the world may feel, this problem is devastatingly large. When I left my new allies, I felt hopeful as we made plans to continue these conversations and expand our net of compassion and education. Tired but determined, I headed to my next stop.
An hour down the road took me to Conway, Arkansas, and the University of Central Arkansas early the next morning. We went in five allies deep to teach 150 resident advisors, peer coaches, and resident coordinators suicide prevention, the process of seeking mental health help, how to increase their knowledge of community resources, and last but not least, resilience and coping skills.
I kicked off the day by sharing my story. It is all too often a shared story many know in a deeply personal way. The room was filled with tears, laughter, of course, my awkward jokes, and a sense of why it is vital that we encourage people to be educated about the issue of suicide.
Rainy mornings don’t make for the best settings, but we faced the day full of passion and purpose. By the end of it, we had changed some minds, found new allies, and left many feeling less alone in this sometimes isolating world.
Days like this bring my heart solace. Maybe, just maybe, one person can be reached.
The conversation has begun.