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Suicide Prevention Week activities designed to raise awareness

by Richard Veilleux - September 2, 2008


This year – like every year – thousands of college students across the country will attempt suicide, according to Barry Schreier, director of Counseling and Mental Health Services. Unfortunately, many will succeed. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, after accidents, he says.

UConn is not immune.

“We have to do a better job of communicating to students that they’re not alone, that help is available if they’re troubled or depressed,” says Schreier. “And we – faculty, staff, and students – have to do a better job of identifying those who are struggling and are in danger.”

To that end, Schreier and a committee that includes representatives from more than two dozen departments have created a program for Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 7-13, that includes movies, a keynote speaker, memorial service, information tables, T-shirts and, most importantly, suicide prevention training sessions that will help teach the UConn community how to recognize students who need help.

The training sessions will be offered Monday, Sept. 7 through Friday, Sept. 13, from 10-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-3 p.m. in Room 304C at the Student Union.

“QPR [Question, Persuade, Refer] training is a proven program that can save lives,” Schreier says. “The training sessions are brief and powerful, and if people can’t make the scheduled sessions during Suicide Prevention Week, then we can bring a session to them. If any department is interested, we will gladly offer a session at their office.”

Schreier says it is vital that members of the University community help identify troubled students because, nationally, very few of the college students who contemplate suicide will visit a counselor on their own initiative.

“Too many people think suicide is something for counseling to handle, but it’s not a counseling problem only. It’s a community problem, so there has to be a community solution,” Schreier says.

He expects the 23 people who have already been trained in QPR to continue training others year-round.

“We can keep running events all year, but it’s friends, teachers, colleagues who are our first responders who can make the difference. That’s why they’re so important,” he says. “Prevention has to go on all year, not just next week, and QPR is the way for us to do this.”

Adopting the theme “Be Aware, Show You Care,” the committee has scheduled a number of other events throughout the week, including a talk at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. by Ross Szabo, director of youth outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign and co-author of Behind Happy Faces. Szabo regularly speaks at high schools and colleges and at national conferences about mental health issues.

Additionally, there will be five movies shown during the week, each led by a discussant, including Wristcutters: A Love Story, on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Theatre; The Virgin Suicide, Sept. 12 at 10 p.m., also in the Student Union Theatre; Girl, Interrupted, Sept. 8 at 6:30 in the Women’s Center; The Sea Inside, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center; and Love and Suicide Sept. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Rainbow Center.

Also scheduled is a student panel discussion, “What Can We Do to Help?” Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the African American Cultural Center; a concert by the a cappella group Take Note! on Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; and a service for anyone who has been impacted by suicide or would like to participate will be held on the front steps of the Wilbur Cross Building on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

The committee also has planned an interactive web application through HuskyCT where participants will be able to test their knowledge of suicide prevention while learning about available resources and what to do to help themselves or others who may be considering suicide.

The group also has established a web site –www.suicideprevention.uconn.edu– that will remain active even after prevention week. The site has dozens of links, has culturally specific options, and a list of resources for suicide prevention.

Members of the University community can also register for one of the QPR session at the site.

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