JED works with schools to help prevent student suicide

With suicide rates among teens and young adults on the rise, society scrambles to find a way to prevent tragic, too young deaths. To help start the conversation about suicide that could literally save a life, Sept. 10 was recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. Since 1975, the Sunday through Saturday bookending the tenth has been designated National Suicide Prevention Week in the U.S. This year the week extended Sept. 10-16.
One in twelve college students in the U.S. make plans for suicide. Suicide is the second largest cause of death among 20 to 24 year olds. More teenagers and young adults die of suicide and other mental illness related problems than all other medical conditions combined. Mental illness and suicide has risen to epidemic levels, but still, the issue is hardly addressed. Popular media like “13 Reasons Why” have brought it into conversation and yet no one quite knows how to properly discuss mental health problems so they simply remain silent.
This is the status quo that the JED Foundation wants to change with their campus outreach programs. As a nonprofit organization that works with high schools and colleges to “protect emotional health and prevent suicide” in very vulnerable age groups, JED understands that the current approach of genuine-but-disconnected reaction to crisis is often not enough to prevent crises from happening in the first place.
“We’re trying to work with schools to take a more public-health approach,” said Lee Swain, director of JED Campus, the foundation’s outreach program to universities. The foundation strives to change the culture and the dialogue surrounding mental illness by providing schools across the country with a personalized assessment of how to better encourage “emotional well being” on their campuses. They teach students and staff to spot warning signs, help to maximize the effect of school counseling systems and work to de-stigmatize the topic entirely.
“A big part of our program is working with campuses to de-stigmatize mental illness and substance abuse,” Swain explained, “encouraging peers to actually reach out to their friends when they’re worried but also to encourage people to seek help when they have an issue.” When the conversation isn’t started, lives are put at risk. When the conversation is handled poorly, lives are ended. The University of Tulsa is not a partner of JED Campus, but six other Oklahoman schools are. They are all partners in the foundation’s collective forum for all partner universities to discuss methods and programs that help change the culture on campuses surrounding mental illness.
As National Suicide Prevention Week comes to an end, become aware of the signs that someone may be struggling: hopelessness, withdrawing from friends and loved ones, changes in their eating and sleeping behaviors, drastic mood swings and even blunt discussions of suicide. Look out for your friends and your peers and help change the culture on this college campus and ever college campus surrounding mental illness.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression or other mental illness, please contact the Alexander Health Center or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Post Author: Amanda Amos