March to battle suicide

Warning signs for students and resources on campus


Louis Herlihy

Graphic by Louis Herlihy

Being a college student can cause immense stress between staying on top of your assignments, meeting deadlines and worrying about tuition. This stress is only compounded when you throw a job, social life or relationship into the mix. For students who struggle with mental illness, prolonged stress has the potential to be fatal.

According to Dr. Michael Day, director of the personal counseling services on campus, excessive stress can potentially lead to someone developing suicidal thoughts.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-aged people, and it is one of the most preventable,” Day said. “Many people think of suicide as sinful, a cop out, or weak.”

These perceptions are inherently negative and result in people being uncomfortable or even unwilling to talk about suicide. Michael Day said the current language that surrounds suicide perpetuates a culture of silence that contributes to the increase in suicides in recent years.

IU Southeast will be having it’s annual Suicide Prevention Week starting Sept. 24 through Oct. 1. This will feature a wide range of events on campus to raise awareness for suicide. Day explained that one of the the reasons for this week is to get the community to be able to talk about suicide openly and break the stigma that has surrounded it for so long.

Last year, many dogs were in attendance. Chancellor Ray Wallace even brought his dog, Shaymus, to the walk. Photo by Chandler Cooper

Suicide affects millions of people every year, and even students here at IU Southeast have felt its devastating effects. Lauren Burch, sociology senior, attempted suicide last year.

“It completely turned my life upside down,” Burch said. She recalled having difficulty finding support.

She explained that initially, talking about her suicide attempt was hard because people would get antsy when she brought it up.

“It was really hard for me to understand how other people couldn’t understand, Burch said. Nobody wants to talk about it. I’m not afraid to talk about my story. You have to have the conversation.”

Day offered an explanation for those who struggle to understand what could drive someone to attempt suicide.

“People don’t want to die, they want to get away from pain,” Day said.

After Burch’s suicide attempt, she found that continuing on with her life was the only way she could move on.

“Now I’m living this beautiful life, and last year I didn’t think I was gonna live. I hope that if anyone is struggling they will go find help,” Burch said.

Help is available right here on campus. The Office of Personal Counseling Services, located in University Center South Room 243, offers individual and couples therapy. The therapy sessions are free for IU Southeast students, completely confidential and  available for any student who feels they need someone to talk to.

Cory Byers, psychology junior, suffers from anxiety and has attended therapy sessions in order to gain coping mechanisms that would help him deal with those feelings of anxiety.

“It can be overpowering and it feels like there is nothing you can do,” Byers said. He explained that the coping mechanisms he learned in therapy helped to lower the feelings of anxiety he experienced.

Like Burch, Byers has also been affected by suicide. In July of 2016, Byers’ stepmother took her own life. Byers was so affected by the loss of his stepmother and his own struggle with anxiety that he is now pursuing a degree in psychology. He said he wishes to help benefit and improve the lives of others.

“Be open about it. Talk about it. Please get help,” Byers said for students struggling with mental illness.

Those who attended last year’s event were able to write down why they came and stick their reasons to the poster board in front of the registration booth. Many showed up to celebrate the lives of those they’ve lost to suicide and promote awareness for the cause. Photo by Chandler Cooper

He wants students with mental illness to realize that they are not alone and that there are people just like them who are going through similar situations.

The Office of Personal Counseling is campaigning to make it easier for students to talk about any issues they may be going through, including mental illness and suicidal thoughts, through the Tell Me About Your Day (T.M.A.Y.D.) initiative.

The initiative is tied into bringing awareness and reducing stigma associated with mental health and suicide,” Karen Richie, counselor and care manager at the personal counseling services, said.

Richie also explained that the campaign included giving out free bracelets with the T.M.A.Y.D. acronym on them in order to strike up a conversation among others to address how they really are doing today.

The T.M.A.Y.D. campaign is connected to the larger #IUStrong campaign, so that students can proudly express all of the ways in which they feel strong, whether that be a student athlete who just won a game or a student who just attended a therapy session.

“We’re trying to change the language so that we can communicate with each other,” Richie said.

Instead of making students feel ashamed for talking about mental illness or suicide, the campaign aims to empower students to talk about what they may be going through.

“Don’t keep it silent. The silence is what’s killing us,” Richie said.

If you are feel suicidal, have a mental illness or just need someone to talk to, there are people and resources within the Office of Personal Counseling that can and will help you. And if you are concerned about someone’s well-being, simply asking them about their day and listening to what they are going through has the potential to save a life. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation.