Personal Counseling Services hosts screening of “The ‘S’ Word” to spark discussion about mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week continues with showing and discussion of “The ‘S’ Word”


Sydney Randall

Michael Day, the head of personal counseling at IU Southeast, leads a discussion about suicide prevention.

Sydney Randall, Staff Reporter

In honor of IU Southeast’s fifth annual Mental Health Awareness Week, 19 students and five faculty and staff attended a showing and discussion of “The “S” Word” in the IUS library on Wednesday, Sept. 25. The showing and discussion were a part of the Mental Health and Wellness Series.

IU Southeast hosts events for Mental Health Awareness Week during the last week of September. This year’s events ran from September 23-28.

“The ‘S’ Word” is a documentary about Dese’Rae Stage, a suicide survivor who seeks out other survivors to both hear and document their stories.

Michael Day, head of personal counseling at IU Southeast, shared how he hoped students would be impacted after watching “The ‘S’ Word.”

“I want the students to feel more comfortable talking about the topic of suicide, particularly if they are feeling those thoughts themselves or if someone else is so we can get help,” Day said. “We can call it suicide, we don’t have to call it the “S” word. The main thing is ending the silence and breaking the stigma.”

Before the showing of “The ‘S’ Word,” Day gave some insight about how suicide affects college students.

“Suicide is something that many of us are afraid to talk about,” he said. “It’s the second leading cause of death among college-aged students. Suicide is a scary thing about how we work as humans, but if we understand that and we know that then we can begin to manage it better and hopefully save lives.”

After the showing of “The ‘S’ Word,” senior psychology major Cory Byers gave a heartfelt speech.

“In 2017, 47,173 people took their life in the United States. That same year 800,000 people took their lives globally. Over 1 million people attempted to take their life. That’s a lot of people,” Byers said. “What we have to remember is that the individual is going through a pain that no one can experience except that individual.”

Near the end of his speech, Byers paused.

“I want every single person to put one of your hands over your chest,” he said.

The students, faculty and staff in the room then paused to place their hands over their chest.

“Do you feel that? What you have in your chest is beating,” he said. “You’re alive. You’re here for a reason. That’s called purpose. Don’t ever forget that. If you take just one thing away from this, just know that you are worthy

Byers ended his speech on an emotional and touching note about darkness and light.

“Darkness thrives when it consumes the light. But we are the light. You’re here for a reason. You have a purpose. After tonight, you are now a bit more equipped to be the light in someone’s life.”

Near the end of the event, three of the faculty and staff that run the events for the Mental Health and Wellness Series gave advice to students at IU Southeast who may be struggling.

“We know this is an issue that affects people on our campus, both directly and indirectly. It’s not just students — it’s faculty and staff too,” said Meghan Khan, a psychology professor at IU Southeast.

Karen Ritchie, IU Southeast counselor and care manager, advised students to reach out.

“Talk to someone. Anyone,” she said.

According to Day, IU Southeast offers a counseling center that is free and confidential — it also is not put on a student’s academic records.

“If you are having these feelings please know that you can come talk to us,” Day said.

Mental Health Awareness Week and its events continue through the end of this week.

At the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, IU Southeast’s Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention is on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. Registration opens at 9 a.m. and the event begins on campus at the clock tower in McCullough Plaza.