The Daily Gamecock

Students train in suicide prevention

Workshop focuses on recognizing symptoms


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In two and a half hours Wednesday morning, a small group of fifteen students and faculty learned how to save lives.


In honor of Suicide Prevention Week, which began Monday, USC's Counseling and Human Development Center hosted a workshop on suicide prevention to teach attendees how to spot the signs of people, particularly students, who may be contemplating suicide.


"We cover some of the factors about someone who may be suicidal, specifically on college campuses and very specifically on our campus," said Jennifer Myers, coordinator for suicide prevention services. "We let people know what to look for, or some of the symptoms for someone who's suicidal and how to help that person."


The reasons for attendance varied, but most included one thing: they knew someone who had killed themselves or seriously thought about it.


"We had a family friend who killed herself when I was young," Erin Fowler, a first-year biology student said, who heard about the workshop through a flyer at Carolina Welcome week and a university email.


She said the most important thing she learned was that signs can be difficult to pick up on and it's important to be attentive to others who may be struggling.


"You can't always tell in passing. The hints are subtle and you have to be able to see that maybe a side comment needs a little extra attention," Fowler said.


Myers and a fellow counselor educated the group using data on depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking on college campuses from the National College Health Assessment. According to the data, approximately five percent of college


students have considered suicide.
Anxiety and depression caused by excessive stress and a new environment can trigger suicidal thoughts, according to Myers. While it can be difficult to pick up on subtle cues, Myers says there are a few basic things to look for.


"Sometimes it's very direct and they say 'I want to kill myself' or sometimes they'll say something like 'There's no point in living' or 'There's no point in trying,'" Myers explained. "They're hopeless. Other signs include increased substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, (feeling) trapped, hopelessness, etc."


Myers suggests directly asking someone who could be suicidal if they are considering killing themselves. From there, that person should be helped to the appropriate mental resource on campus. Calling the Counseling Center or the police immediately may be necessary if the person is seriously thinking about harming themselves.


"I learned that asking someone if they've ever thought about ending their life, just asking that actually shows them that you care for them, and it probably wont be an awkward conversation," said music composition graduate student David Batchelor. "If that situation comes, it's okay to ask that, and they will probably appreciate the concern. I'm going to go do that. I have some people that I'm going to go have that conversation with."


Many students who should consider counseling don't because they fear that they will be judged by their peers or that the Counseling Center will tell others that they came for counseling. Myers said that neither is true and that the center is legally bound to keep all information private. The only time information can be released is to keep a person safe from harming themselves or someone else.


"One of the great things our students can do is let others know that it's okay to go to counseling and let them know it's okay to talk about mental health problems," Myers said.