Suicide Prevention Week addresses warning signs for college students

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Marty Swanbrow Becker talks to students about recognizing the warning signs for suicide Thursday evening. Becker works for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, which is promoting Be That One Suicide Prevention program as part of its prevention week.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The purpose of this year’s upcoming suicide prevention week is clear: to inform and educate students about the measures they can take if they think someone they know is at risk of suicide, said Counseling and Mental Health Center officials.

Suicide Prevention week runs from Sept. 19 to 24, although a related workshop was held Thursday to address issues concerning suicide among college students and how it can be prevented. Marty Becker, graduate assistant at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said 50 percent of college students have had suicidal thoughts, according to a national survey.

“Eighteen percent responded that their thoughts of suicide were serious and 8 percent of undergraduate respondents said they had attempted suicide before,” Becker said.

These statistics are startling, Becker said, who is part of an effort to train the UT Police Department, resident assistants, media, faculty and students to be prepared in an effort to make these situations less likely to occur.

Becker said it is important to recognize the warning signs of suicide, which may include a noticeable change in behavior, highly negative language or an overall detachment from society.

“Students often come to the counseling center at the last minute while in a crisis,” Becker said. “It’s much easier to prevent this situation if they are brought [in] at an earlier time.”

Another crucial step to preventing suicides is to emphasize the availability of professional help, Becker said.

“It’s important to listen and be there, but don’t feel solely responsible. That’s the job for the professionals,” Becker said. “The key is to get them to counseling as soon as possible.”

The way media covers suicide stories can also influence people to act on their suicidal thoughts, said Marian Trattner, suicide prevention coordinator at CMHC. The phenomena of copycat and contagion suicides, in which people are influenced by the descriptions or glorification of previous suicides, can be prevented by the behavior of the media, Trattner said.

“The impact of news media on suicide is big,” Trattner said. “But the media can also play a huge role in suicide prevention.”

To help prevent suicides, the media can avoid romanticizing or glorifying suicides and avoid detailed descriptions of the method or place of death, Trattner said.

Jani Rameswaran, nursing senior and internal training captain of Longhorn Emergency Medical Services, said these programs are very beneficial to the UT community. Throughout the week, UT will host workshops and lectures to raise awareness about suicide prevention and the importance of getting professional help.

“[People at risk of suicide] are an underserved population that we don’t talk about too much at UT,” Rameswaran said. “We need more people engaged across the University.”

Printed on Friday, September 16, 2011 as: Workshops focus on suicide prevention for college students.