- What if……. the number of deaths by suicide was zero each year?
- How can we address and accomplish a culture of caring for students in any level of psychological distress?
- How can we promote and give tools to enact 2 central themes of “hope” and “resiliency”?
These questions involve CAPS wanting to do something more around suicide prevention for our campus. So, we are starting a new initiative to prevent student deaths by suicide. A first component is the “Messages of Hope” project.
Specificially, CAPS invites our whole campus community to:
- identify day to day messages of hope that help us when we are in a crisis
- reflect back those messages – to each other and make them available to us
- show how to use these messages of hope to become roads of resiliency
We can use this as an antidote to thoughts and behaviors of self-harm.
This effort is in the larger ongoing do something campaign, started in 2007, in which CAPS encourages the whole campus community to engage in student mental heatlh support – whether it’s helping a student in a faculty/staff role, helping yourself as a student, or helping a friend, roommate, classmate. Even if you don’t know exactly what to do – do something. And, ‘do’ – it’s great to have awareness and knowledge and a value of helping and the desire to help but it’s not enough – we HAVE TO ACT. In effect, we are strengthening our “community of caring” that includes CAPS and other mental health professional agencies and people who are not mental health professionals – in short, ALL OF US.
The Surgeon General's report a few years ago indicates strong support for suicide prevention on a national level. This is a part of the story; but we need to translate all this in to a U of M culture that is 100% supportive and gives 100% clarity of what to do when a student needs help with a mental health crisis.
Why Do This?
- General student body: ~26% of students have some degree of suicidal ideation
- CAPS Clients: ~38% of clients coming to CAPS have some degree of suicidal ideation
- 25% of students know someone who has died by suicide
- 40% of students know someone who has attempted suicide
- These figures indicate that the amount of distress, the amount of suicidal ideation, the amount of struggling, is high.
- A common finding in suicide prevention is that lack of social support — described as feeling unappreciated, unloved and uninvolved with family and friends — emerges as one of the most powerful predictors of persistent suicidal thoughts, even in the absence of other risk factors. 58% of our students feel “isolated and lonely” at times – even in the midst of many people and communities and resources and people who want to help every day.
- At the end of the day, the scientific study of risk and protective factors is important; the clinical knowledge and service delivery of how to work with suicidal ideation is important; but it’s not enough. We all need to do something more.
- What stands out among all the science and clinical care findings are 2 central themes of “hope” and “resiliency”. THAT is what gets us through the tough times, including a suicidal crisis.
Students have already readily written hundreds of messages ‘to each other’, like:
- “you are not alone”
- “just be yourself”
- “love who you are”
- “you are even stronger than you think”
- “don’t panic”
- “love life – be brave”
- “you are beautiful”
- “hold on – it gets better”
- “believe in yourself”
- “you’re unique”