safeTALK provides students and staff training to recognize suicide symptoms

The suicide rate among young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s according to Crisis on Campus: The Untold Story of Student Suicide.

To help its students with this issue, Eastern Michigan University is putting on safeTALK training from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 6 and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 12 in room 300 in Halle Library. The program will teach students the signs and symptoms of suicide.

The training will focus on five goals:

Reduce the stigma of seeking care

Increase help seeking behaviors in students

Increase the number of students, faculty and staff able to recognize symptoms

Respond to students in need of help

Reduce overall negative feelings about mental illness and suicide

“It’s very clear that students have the same rate or even higher rates of thoughts of suicide or attempts of suicide than the national average. It is an issue that we have to address on our campus,” said Lisa Lauterbach, project co-director and director of the counseling and psychological services.

The program is part of a three-year federal Campus Suicide Prevention Grant awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Eastern, along with 14 other colleges nationwide, was awarded the grant after a selective application process.

Ellen Gold, project director and assistant vice president of student well being, said that preventing, rather than simply reacting to suicide, will make the campus a better place.

“The more people that are trained, the more people can appropriately respond in a timely way. Which is really important, to not wait,” Gold said.

Students will get practice starting conversations about mental health.

“Even just talking about suicide raises people’s consciousness,” Lauterbach said. “To think about it, to be aware that this could be an issue. Just keep it in the back of your mind if you’re talking with somebody, a friend that’s really struggling. That might even be something that they’re thinking about. What reduces the stigma is if we talk about it.”

Erin Snapp and Rachel Booth Helscher are the graduate coordinators of the grant. They are making the program a student-lead initiative.

“Going peer to peer, it might be more approachable and digestible to have that conversation with your peer and connect them to the program’s resource center,” Helscher said.

Lauterbach said EMU students have multiple pressures that factor into their stress level.

“It’s not unusual for an Eastern student to be working a lot of hours and managing school,” Lauterbach said. “Also, our students live relatively locally and they’re still very connected to their families and are impacted by what’s happening at home.”

To sign up for the training program contact Gold by 5 p.m. March 4. Learn more about the training program on Facebook at Active Minds - SAFE Now, or on Twitter at @EMUActiveMinds

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