Student Counseling Services at The University of Southern Mississippi invites the community to remember those who have lost their lives to suicide during Suicide Prevention Awareness Week Sept. 30-Oct. 2.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Week is a national event to educate the public about the prevalence of suicide and suicidal behaviors and to recognize the efforts of all who are working to prevent suicide. About 1,100 college students across the nation commit suicide each year, according to Southern Miss Student Counseling Services.
“I have talked to many students, faculty and staff on our campus whose lives have been affected by suicide,” said Deena Crawford, Southern Miss Student Counseling Services interim director. “By increasing awareness of the warning signs and available resources for help, as well as getting rid of the stigma of asking for help, our campus can decrease the number of attempts and completed suicides in our community.”
A week of events at Southern Miss kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 30, with an information fair from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Thad Cochran Center. At 12:15 p.m., Dr. Joe Paul, vice president of Student Affairs, will proclaim Suicide Prevention Awareness Week at Southern Miss.
Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources, Pine Grove Behavioral Health, Student Counseling Services, Memorial Behavioral Health, Shafer Crisis Center and the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter will participate in the fair. Local artist Kym Garraway also will give away a painting during a drawing.
Nationally-known speaker Ross Szabo will visit Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Bennett Auditorium to present “What Happy Faces Are Hiding: Talking About Depression.” Szabo is the author of the book "Behind Happy Faces: Taking Charge of Your Mental Health, A Guide for Young Adults." He has been featured in Parade and Seventeen magazine, appeared on CNN, MTV and CBS and his presentation was turned into a television program for PBS. He was named 2007 Best Male Performer of the Year by Campus Activities Magazine.
But Szabo also knows too well the suffering mental illness causes. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16 and hospitalized during his senior year of high school for wanting to take his own life, an experience he started to talk about publicly at age 17. After his presentation, Szabo will be available for a book signing at JavaWerks during "Java Joiners," an opportunity for students and the community to join together for music, mingle and additional information on suicide prevention.
Ninety percent of college students who take their own lives have a diagnosable mental illness, usually depression, according to Suicide and Mental Health Association International.
"With suicide being the second leading cause of death among college students, suicide prevention and awareness is crucial on any college campus," said Brandy Gunter, Student Counseling Services counselor. "Each event of the week has a unique and important purpose."
A candlelight vigil will end Suicide Prevention Awareness Week and serve as a memorial to those lost to suicide at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, in front of the Administration Building. A guest speaker will share his story on how suicide has affected his life. A short reception will follow.
“Southern Miss President Martha Saunders has done an excellent job of bringing focus to the importance of both communication and promoting healthy minds in creating a climate for academic success — suicide prevention is an extension of this,” Crawford said.
For more information about Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, contact Southern Miss Student Counseling Services 601.266.4829.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Week schedule:
• Tuesday, Sept. 30
10 a.m.- 2 p.m.: Information fair
12:15 p.m.: Dr. Joe Paul, vice president of Student Affairs, will proclaim Suicide Prevention Awareness Week at Southern Miss
Both events will be held at the Thad Cochran Center
• Wednesday, Oct. 1
7 p.m.: Presentation with Ross Szabo, “What Happy Faces Are Hiding: Talking About Depression” at Bennett Auditorium
Followed by book signing of “Behind Happy Faces: Taking Charge of Your Mental Health, A Guide for Young Adults" at JavaWerks
• Thursday, Oct. 2
8 p.m.: Candlelight vigil, with guest speaker, in front of Administration Building
Followed by short reception
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.