Students gathered at the Ceddia Union Building (CUB) amphitheater to learn how to help others in need at Shippensburg University’s Suicide Awareness Vigil Sept. 10.
SU’s Housing and Residence Life, Counseling Center and the Spiritual Center collaborated on the event to break down the stigmatization of suicide and to spread the importance of caring for one another.
Alexandria Karlheim, assistant director of residential education, helped coordinate the event, hoping that students go to residential assistants (RAs) for help and support.
“Suicide touches everyone’s life and I think it is the No. 1 preventable death. I wish we lived in a world where everyone took their time and felt like it matters,” Karlheim said.
Guest speakers spoke of their experiences with suicide and how it affected their lives. During the middle of the ceremony the Rev. Jan Bye spoke about positivity, encouraging others to value their lives.
“It is hard sometimes to remember that things won’t always be the same, that tomorrow won’t hurt as bad as today,” Bye said.
Bye shared stories of helping students who were suicidal and how she dealt with the guilt and pain of families affected by suicide.
“But with all those experiences of sadness and tragedy I also know there is hope, things can get better,” Bye said.
The vigil had a brief moment of silence to honor those who had taken their lives and to people who struggle with depression and suicidal ideations.
Dr. Chris Carlton, director of the Counseling Center, spoke about the importance of not judging people by their appearance without knowing their struggles and feelings.
The Counseling Center sees three to four students each week who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic counselors are dealing with more anxious and depressed students.
“I think the whole idea of creating a sense of connection [and] community is very important [because] it can address many issues,” Carlton said.
If you know someone who seems like they are struggling, Dr. Carlton recommends having a conversation with the person and showing them that you care. He knows it will not be easy to have the person open up but checking in and positive affirmations might help.
Karlheim also encourages students to be nicer to others who are secretly battling their depression by smiling with your eyes or simply talking to strangers in a Starbucks line. Anything to bring down the barriers and save a life.
For more information or guidance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Counseling Center at 717-477-1481.