After losing several friends to suicide, Daria Buhtoiarova decided to join Buckeye Campaign Against Suicide in order to find a community where she could openly discuss mental health.
Buhtoiarova, a first-year in biology, joined approximately 1,000 other students, staff and community members at BCAS’ annual RUOK? Day on Wednesday.
The event showcased the resources available to students, both on and off campus, that work toward fostering dialogue surrounding mental health and getting students the help they need.
“We’re just trying to get more people to raise the question ‘Are you OK?’ and erase the stigma associated with mental health, and realize that it is OK to ask others if they’re OK,” Buhtoiarova said.
Maria Lammy, adviser of BCAS and an employee at Ohio State’s Suicide Prevention Program, said the acronym RUOK highlights the four main groups that presented at the event: R: community resources; U: university offices; O: student organizations; and K: knowledge.
Lammy said that although there are numerous resources available to students, it’s often difficult to know where to start in terms of searching for those resources.
“There’s so many things on campus that are easy to get lost, so when it comes to mental health, that’s already pretty stigmatized,” Lammy said. “So to have an event where mental health is highlighted and students can come talk about difficult topics and learn really valuable resources is super important.”
The involvement of student organizations causes the event to resonate with a lot of attendees. Lammy said that students respond differently when asked about their mental health from a classmate versus a professor or staff member.
“If it weren’t for students getting engaged and caring about this cause and sharing it with their peers, we wouldn’t be able to reach nearly as many people as we do every year,” Lammy said.
Although RUOK? Day is the group’s largest event, BCAS also works on smaller projects throughout the year to raise awareness about suicide.
The organization spearheaded the idea to install signs in parking garages on campus that list suicide hotline numbers, Casey Kaiser, a fourth-year in psychology and co-president of BCAS, said.
Kaiser said that although the projects might be small in scale like the suicide hotline signs, multiple people have called the provided numbers after seeing the signs, so the group’s work has saved the lives of others.
“It can be hard to say ‘I am leaving an impact on this campus’ because we’re a kind of small group and the campus is so big, but we’re doing stuff. I think that’s most important, and that’s what I try to remind people,” Kaiser said. “You are making a difference even if you don’t see it directly.”
If nothing else, BCAS hopes its efforts bring enough awareness to help students at the onset of their symptoms, when they are first starting to consider getting help instead of when it is too late, Sam Woodring, a third-year in English and the club’s other co-president, said.
“You really only hear about mental health when something bad happens, but a lot of the resources are actually prevention or intervention resources before someone is at that point,” Woodring said.
Ultimately, BCAS wants specifically younger or new students to be able to identify viable resources on campus. It also wants students to realize that continuing the conversation about mental health is vital, so vital that BCAS planned a whole day around it, Woodring said.
“We want new students to be able to find the resources that they or their friends need,” Woodring said. “But most of all, we want Ohio State to have a culture of care rather than a culture of silence.”