Even on a campus of more than 50,000 people, students can feel alone. That’s OK to say; but fellow students want them to know that feeling truly isn’t the case.
Student organizations Peers Reaching Out and Buckeye Campaign Against Suicide collaborated with Ohio State’s Suicide Prevention team to tape about 6,000 fliers late Monday night throughout campus buildings. The papers detail national and local mental health resources.
The act was a symbol of solidarity and the reach of a helping hand by many students who said they can relate to others struggling with mental health. But the event took on many forms of meaning for the participants: to erase a negative stigma, raise awareness, prevent suicide, promote positive thinking, show care and make a change.
To “Remember You Matter,” like the fliers said.
“It’s such a simple gesture, but it can mean a lot to a lot of different people,” said Vijay Shah, president of BCAS and a fourth-year in biology. “Whether they’re facing a mental health issue or just to acknowledge if you’re walking up to your car in a parking garage, to see that there are people who are caring about vital issues that are affecting people across the country, but especially at OSU as well.”
Shah said he and other students in the organization decided they wanted to make some type of presence felt throughout campus Monday night, so they reached out to the Suicide Prevention team who had already made fliers and posters and received approval from the Office of Student Life to post them.
“Our students have a very powerful voice on this campus and they have the potential to use that for good and positive things,” said Laura Lewis, assistant director of the Suicide Prevention program. “We have a large number of students who are very passionate about suicide prevention and who want to communicate the message that suicide is preventable and that this campus can demonstrate care and compassion, as well as resources.”
The outreach occurred the same day University President Michael Drake announced a mental health task force after two people fell from the South Union Garage within 72 hours; one student died while a former student remains in critical condition.
Shah said the most important thing he wanted students to know is that everyone can give hope to people struggling with mental health.
“None of us undergraduates are professional counselors. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to help,” he said.“There’s someone at some place that is willing to help you. Whether that be a friend or whether it be someone at the suicide hotline or whether it be using a wellness coach at the wellness center. So there’s a lot of different things available for students, especially at OSU.”
Julia Parker, president of Peers Reaching Out and fourth-year in psychology, said the foundation of the event was to inform all students that these are real-life issues with which everyone can help.
“I think the biggest thing is just to be willing to listen to people talk about [mental health] and know where you could send someone,” she said. “Even if you don’t think it’s applicable to you right now, just to be aware of the options students have at Ohio State and to be supportive of the fact that we need to support these different divisions even if it’s not affecting me in this exact moment, that it affects other Buckeyes and it’s important to care about them.”
It’ll be hard for students to miss the signs — the signs that show there is help; there is hope; they matter — as they make their way through campus. The signs are now lining bathroom walls, hallways, stairways, bulletin boards and parking garages.
“I just want people to remember if they’re one struggling with mental health issues or suicidal ideology, that they’re not alone,” Shah said. “And even though it can be a very large and overwhelming campus that there’s so many people out there that care about them. It’s real important that we reach out when we see possible warning signs. There often are warning signs prior to suicide, but the easiest way is to just go ahead and ask someone, ‘Are you OK?’ Just those [four] words can make a world of difference in someone’s day.”
Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Service is located on the 4th floor of the Younkin Success Center on Neil Avenue. An additional location is at Lincoln Tower in room 1030 on Cannon Drive. The service can be reached at 614-292-5766.
To speak immediately with a trained crisis counselor available 24/7, text “HOME” to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line. Text “4HOPE” if in Ohio.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.