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On February 20, 2019, students, faculty and staff gathered for Talk Saves Lives, an educational event about suicide prevention, presented by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The presentation was brought to campus through funds raised at last spring’s Out of the Darkness Walk. Steve Windom, Michigan area director of AFSP, facilitated the event, adding his own personal experiences to connect with the audience.

At the event, attendees learned about the scope of the issue and ways they can help prevent suicide. They also learned about valuable research surrounding suicide, including the fact that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

Junior Abigale Smith played a key role in bringing the event to campus and believes opening up the conversation on suicide is crucial to relieving stigma.

“The simple act of talking about this issue is profound because it’s something that isn’t widely talked about,” Abigale said. “Dr. Corey always talks about being comfortable with the uncomfortable, and we need to take that step on campus with mental health.”

Maria Davis, Ph.D., dean and provost of the College, is grateful the College was able to share valuable mental health information. She and many others benefited from the knowledge presented.

“Student mental health is a growing concern nationwide,” she said. “We were so pleased to be able to host our partners from AFSP for this important presentation. One of the most important things I learned as part of the talk was that we should never assume that someone else is going to intervene; if we know someone is exhibiting signs of suicidal thoughts, we need to ask them directly about it. Interrupting such thoughts and getting professional help involved may save a life.”

Windom stresses that while suicide prevention is an important topic everywhere, it is especially important to educate those on college campuses.

“College is a really stressful place,” he said. “A lot of these issues are stress- and transition-related. It’s important to have events like this especially on college campuses because of the staggering suicide rate for young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-34-year-olds. “

Junior Hannah Haugsby agrees that suicide prevention education is crucial at colleges.

“I think having events like this is important because some people don’t know how to get help,” Hannah said. “College is the best but most stressful time. Sometimes students can’t find time or don’t think about reaching out, so it’s good to teach people how to recognize the signs.”

Junior Katie Priest recognizes the struggles of spreading suicide prevention awareness.

“I’m glad this event happened because this issue is such a battle,” she said. “Our job is never done. It never hurts to be educated. And really, you never know who has suffered.”

Windom believes change is coming — especially in the hands of young people.

“Young people are the next wave to rewrite this script,” he said. “They can come out educated and make change. They can rally from positions of power.”

To learn more about mental health support on campus, contact Jason Meadows at 269.749.7172 or jmeadows@olivetcollege.edu or the Office of Student Life. To learn more about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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