41 Seconds Raises Suicide Awareness

 

Group of people who wore blue to the event to support suicide awareness. Photo by Christy Marshall

Supporters wearing blue as part of the suicide awareness event. Photo by Christy Marshall

On Feb. 20, students gathered in King Lounge for an important annual event. For the past four years, Student Ambassador Chelsea Garcia has hosted 41 Seconds, a suicide awareness event that facilitates a dialogue about mental health and suicide. “Every 40 seconds someone dies of suicide and every 41 seconds, someone is left behind to deal with it,” Garcia said at the start of the event. Students were encouraged to share their experiences with mental health and suicide. Students on campus were also encouraged to wear blue in honor of suicide awareness.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college age young adults according to the Center for Disease Control. In fact, The Jason Foundation, a suicide awareness organization, says more young adults die of suicide than “cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.” This makes suicide a particularly important subject for college students and shows a clear need for events like 41 Seconds that allow open discussion about mental health.

Host of the event, Chelsea Garcia, is proud of the four year of 41 Seconds. Photo by Christy Marshall

Host of the event, Chelsea Garcia, is proud of the four year of 41 Seconds. Photo by Christy Marshall

“I think it’s important that campuses have this event because it creates conversations and that’s one of the big things with suicide and mental illness. There’s a stigma that surrounds it and because there isn’t a conversation going on, people don’t feel like they have someone to go to, or people don’t feel loved so they’re less likely to reach out,” Garcia said. “I feel like it’s important that people know that there’s a safe place for them that they can go to, even if it’s just once a year,” she added.

With several music breaks in between to keep the environment from getting too heavy, students stepped up to the front of the room to tell their mental health stories. They also shared advice, raised concerns and offered support. “What I liked about [the event] was that there was a nice openness in terms of discussion, which we hadn’t had in the past. There was a lot of story sharing, which I love,” Garcia said.

Creative Writing and Literature sophomore Melissa Dow attended last year’s event and, while she wishes more people attended this year, she’s glad the school has this resource. “It’s a great event even just to raise awareness of suicide and I think that that’s helpful. Plus, it was kind of nice seeing all of the blue today… [Suicide] isn’t exactly a subject you bring up in normal conversation. [It’s nice to] be in a room together where everyone has similar or the same experiences. It’s kind of unifying in a way,” Dow said. “It’s a small group but impactful.”

Melissa Dow poses for a picture before she is interviewed for the event. Photo by Christy Marshall

Melissa Dow poses for a picture before she is interviewed for the event. Photo by Christy Marshall

In addition to sharing stories, attendees talked about issues revolving around suicide, such as the term “committed suicide.” Some people believe using the phrase is problematic because it implies criminality. “In the past it was indeed a crime and if people had failed attempts, they would go to jail,” said Garcia. While suicide is no longer a crime in the United States, using the term “committed suicide” harkens back to a time when it was a criminal act.

Despite Garcia graduating this semester, she assured Jackalope that the event will continue after she leaves. “It will be put on by the Student Ambassadors,” she says, many of whom were at the event to show their support.

If you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal ideation, there are resources on campus to help. The Health Center located between Mouton Hall and the Tipton Center has a licensed mental health counselor who is available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment. Her name is Carol (CJ) Patterson and can be reached at 505-473-6362 or carol.patterson@pmsnm.org.  For help outside office hours, students are encouraged to call the Crisis Response of Santa Fe at (505) 820-6333 or (800) 273-8255. Students can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 or use the Lifeline Crisis Chat to speak with someone online.