Texas A&M will have virtual suicide awareness events, including a walk challenge.
As part of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and World Suicide Prevention Day, Texas A&M University will host its fourth annual suicide awareness and prevention campaign, “Not Another Aggie,” throughout September.
A series of virtual events will highlight campus and community resources and provide support for survivors and those struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression.
The signature event is the Suicide Awareness Virtual Walk Challenge September 10 - October 7. In partnership with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Suicide Awareness & Prevention Office (SAPO) is using the Walk Through Texas History platform to host a virtual walk in which participants can form teams of up to eight people while tracking the number of miles they walk in support of suicide awareness and prevention.
Texas A&M students, faculty and staff are invited to register for the virtual walk challenge through <howdyhealth.org>.
“Our goal is to increase connection and awareness through our various virtual events and programs,” said Santana Simple, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services. “We are still working to break the stigma associated with suicide so that students in distress and those of us who are here to support them can make meaningful connections to resources.”
The campaign will also feature the following virtual events:
• A virtual candlelight vigil September 10 at 8 p.m. to honor and remember those who have died by suicide.
• Gatekeeper suicide awareness and prevention training throughout the campaign.
• Thriving Through Uncertainty Webinars that address how to cope during the pandemic starting September 24.
• Virtual Yoga session hosted by Rec Sports on September 15 at 6:30 p.m.
• A screening of “The Ripple Effect,” a movie about the impact of suicide, on September 16 at 7 p.m.
• The Legends Program hosted by Active Minds at Texas A&M on September 22 at 7 p.m.
Death by Suicide Rising in the United States
The suicide rate increased 35 percent from 1999 to 2018. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of suicides reported among college students and other populations in the United States was rising. Since February, physical distancing has increased social isolation, resulting in an increase in mental stress.
According to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four people aged 18 to 24 seriously contemplated suicide in June. While the data does not have a breakdown for college students, people who are in the traditional age group for college students seem to be increasingly experiencing psychological distress, compared to other age groups.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Texas Suicide Fact Sheet shows that suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Texas, but is one of the top causes of death for adolescents in the state. Among individuals ages 15-34, it is the second leading cause of death, and the fourth leading cause of death for Texans ages 35-44. On average, one person dies by suicide every two hours in the state.
“It is more important than ever that we work together to promote awareness of suicide to decrease the stigma, to help our students gain access to the support they need, and to provide training for those who wish to help,” Simple said. “Last year we were able to reach more than 1,500 students, faculty, staff and community members in Bryan-College Station. These virtual events could help us reach even more people this year. With the support of Texas A&M and the community, we can spread the news of suicide awareness and prevention so that not another Aggie will be lost to suicide.”
Grant Funds Campus-Wide Prevention Effort
Because of the inherent challenges associated with reporting on suicide, Texas A&M does not share data related to deaths by suicide. In fall 2018, Texas A&M Counseling & Psychological Services (part of the Division of Student Affairs) was awarded the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant, which is allowing the creation of a single point of coordination for campus-wide suicide prevention efforts through the Suicide Awareness & Prevention Office.
The office provides a variety of suicide awareness and prevention resources, including:
Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR): A one-hour workshop that teaches students, faculty and staff how to recognize warning signs, ask about suicide and refer individuals to help;
Campus Connect: Interactive student training to help raise awareness about college student suicide;
Gatekeeper 2.0: Gives participants who have taken QPR or Campus Connect a chance to refresh their skills and reflect on the challenges of talking about suicide;
Kognito: A virtual simulation of real-life scenarios that trains students, faculty and staff to have conversations with those in mental distress;
HelpLine: A volunteer, afterhours mental health service that provides support, information, crisis intervention and referrals to students and those concerned about students. It is available from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends when school is in session.
“As Texas A&M and the surrounding community join together in this battle against suicide, we can make a real difference in the lives of our Aggie students,” Simple said. “I am looking forward to connecting with new and old partners in this journey as we host numerous events throughout this month.”
For more information about the events that are part of Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month at Texas A&M, visit the Suicide Awareness Month webpage.