When no one talks about suicidal thoughts or mental health problems, “people that are having issues feel that they’re the only one; they feel very isolated,” says Susie Reece, executive director of Suicide Prevention Allies “And suicidal thoughts and mental illnesses are very isolating already. They don’t necessarily recognize that this is something that a lot of people are dealing with, and it starts to compound, and that’s when they become high risk.”
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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 professions. We had hard discussions about how close to home this issue was for them, and the difficulties we face when trying to navigate the many situations we can have thrust upon us. The world seemed small when several in the room shared a single 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 around 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 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.