It’s not always easy to reach out when you’re struggling with mental health. But there is support out there, and on Thursday, Buckeyes Campaign Against Suicide sought to highlight the network that exists on campus and across Columbus by hosting RUOK? Day.
Held in the Ohio Union Performance Hall, the event included booths from various on-campus organizations such as the Boo Radley Society, Active Minds and the Trans Mission in effort to bring forth mental health awareness while also providing a peaceful atmosphere comforting for students who might want to talk.
BCAS organized RUOK? Day with an outreach mission set forth to get the message of mental health wellness and suicide prevention out to the campus community. Those involved in the event work to change the culture on campus to break down negative stigmas surrounding mental health and educate students on resources that are available.
The RUOK? acronym has a specific meaning, said Maria Lammy, a doctoral student in counselor education.
“The R would-be resources in Franklin County or Columbus like the crisis text line for example. The U is university resources for example the [Student Life] Multicultural Center. O would be student organizations so we have for example Boo Radley Society, and the K is knowledge,” Lammy said.
She said students who attend the event can learn facts about different mental illnesses and about suicide, and then are able to talk to other students about it.
At the event, there were different stations representing each letter in RUOK?, including the question mark. Educational resources about various facets of mental health were available at each station.
Additionally, informational posters on mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and PTSD were displayed in the ballroom, with the “reality” of the illnesses on the front, and the “misconceptions” on the back, representing the importance of reality over misconception.
RUOK? Day consisted of many other organizations that deal with suicide prevention and mental health, along with therapy dogs, music and free t-shirts.
“The biggest thing is that all the different organizations and resources that are represented at the tables at this event deal with all kinds of things like sexual violence, crisis hotline, Multicultural Center,” Lammy said. “If they are struggling with something related to mental health but they are like, ‘Oh I don’t think counseling is the right thing for me,”’ they can come here and there are tons of other options they can learn about or find something that will work for them.”
Vijay Shah, president of BCAS, said the event allows people to feel happy, while also learning about suicide and mental health.
“We try to make it a really lively event because people associate, for example, depression, when they think about mental illness and depression often have this connotation of sadness,” Shah said. “That is why we have music playing in the background, we have a lot of enthusiastic volunteers, we have therapy dogs, which everyone loves to play with dogs, and it’s a welcoming atmosphere so that people know that they are not alone.”
Silence is a sign of someone who might need help, but does not know how to ask, and the best thing to do is talk to others who are feeling alone, Shah said.
“There are still people out there who don’t believe that mental illness is a real thing and they think that it is all in people’s head, where as it’s been backed by many years of scientific research that these are things that can have not just mental effects but biological effects,” he said. “We are trying to communicate that mental illness is a real thing, but also if you see someone who might be struggling with these thoughts, don’t wait to say something.”
Ohio State Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service can be reached at 614-292-5766. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.