There are more deaths by suicide than by homicide, according to ProjectSPEAK, a suicide prevention program created by Daytona State College and Seminole State College. Because of this staggering statistic, and because college age students are the number one age bracket at risk, with the Jacksonville population having twice as many suicides than the national average, Active Minds, a student organization on campus that strives to raise awareness on mental health issues at JU, held a panel as well as a short documentary viewing with discussion as a resource and a call to action.
With rainy weather and other events on campus, attendance at the Gooding Auditorium was low on Wednesday, April 3. But those who were there engaged in the conversation and broke the walls that are sometimes built with the subject of suicide.
“I feel like issues about suicide haven’t really been addressed on campus,” said Jairid Pacileo, junior and president of Active Minds. “I think any event like this is going to help at least one person, which makes it successful. Hopefully it will warm people up to discussing these types of topics because there seems to be a lack of comfort when addressing these issues of mental health.”
According to the documentary developed by ProjectSPEAK, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and approximately 1,100 college students are lost each year. Still, suicide is preventable, and approximately 80 percent of those who seek appropriate help receive the help they need. Sarah Pamplin, freshman aviation and vocal performance major, attended the event gained a new perspective on the problem.
“I learned the extent of the issue; I didn’t know it was such a huge problem, I didn’t know it was so common,” Pamplin said. “I also learned that people who are considering suicide aren’t set on killing themselves but crying out for help a lot of the time.”
Brittany Bush, freshman film major and an Active Minds officer in training stated a statistic on suicide along with other officers of Active Minds which included information about suicide and veterans, LGBT, college students, and more.
“When people were asking questions I was looking at their faces and I could tell it was helpful for them and the panel,” Bush said. “I think it was nice for [Katherine Segura] to share her story. You could see the relief in her eyes. When other students were asking questions I felt like they wanted an answer, and maybe they’re not going through that right now but they’re prepared if it happens. I think we reached some people.”
The panel who spoke after the documentary showing was Melissa Witmeier, Project Coordinator for Florida Youth Suicide Prevention Project, Dr. Pam Rillstone, Professor of Nursing and Active Minds advisor, Kyle Fessenden, Counselor/Outreach Coordinator for the Student Counseling Center, and Katherine Segura who was featured in the documentary. The counseling center located in the Sam Marks Annex and is free for Jacksonville University students.
Students, faculty and community members who attended the event were left with questions; some could be answered by the panel, but others could not.
“It makes me wonder why,” Pamplin said. “It gives me a lot more of an idea of what this transition in our life means and how shocking it can be to be out from under our parent’s for the first time in what can be a stressful environment.”