Jacks supporting Jacks in September

Illustration by Dominic Davies

September is oftentimes correlated with crisp, cool air and preparations for a new season. In addition, the month represents something more personal. September is known for commemorating Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week. This week was created for people to come together and discuss the different ways society can recognize the warning signs of suicide. 

NAU created free, extensive training lessons via Zoom for all employees this month. This gives NAU staff and faculty the chance to discuss topics that pertain to suicide prevention. These Zoom meetings will inform staff members of the signs and symptoms that someone may be contemplating unhealthy behaviors.

During these suicide prevention events, there will be ongoing presentations that will include suicide statistics and a virtual remembrance for those who have died from suicide. 

NAU offers mental health resources year-round, including counseling services located both at the Health and Learning Center and the Eastburn Education building. Due to COVID-19, the majority of counseling sessions will be conducted through Zoom. NAU has listed a variety of off-campus services and 24-hour hotlines on the university’s website, as well as a step-by-step guide on how students can help a friend that is in need. 

Senior Denise Ocampo, president of the Mental Health Support Squad (MHSS) and Student Health Advocacy Committee, said the MHSS will be participating in advocating about suicide awareness through the organization’s Instagram.

“The MHSS will be posting suicide resources on our Instagram all month,” Ocampo said. “We will be conducting a mass outreach to student organizations, professors and advisers with a resource sheet and tips for recognizing the warning signs, and we are asking them to distribute that to students within their organizations and classes.” 

The MHSS consists of both undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in promoting mental health awareness. Students learn how to effectively assist others that may be in distress. This organization is relatively new and is closely taught by staff from NAU Counseling Services. Its vision statement is to bring awareness to topics like mental health while also fighting to break the stigma around asking for help.

Ocampo listed various mental health programs that NAU students can partake in, such as the Jacks Supporting Jacksonline training. This is a 20-minute training that goes over how to correctly identify the warning signs for substance abuse and mental health problems. 

A decrease in mental health can create suicidal thoughts. With the circumstances that some have been through during 2020, one may find themselves feeling more lonely than before. 

Senior and MHSS member Allie Newman gave advice on what students can do if they are ever feeling suicidal. 

“My tips would be to always take a breather when you are feeling stressed and remind yourself that you are going to get through this,” Newman said in an email interview. “These times are especially so uncertain and difficult, but to keep on strong and everything is going to be OK. I also would say to always reach out to a friend, family member etcetera, to help with feelings of sadness.”

On Sept. 23, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., MHSS will invite students to participate in Wellness Wednesday via Zoom. This gathering is for students to decompress from their studies by joining a virtual scavenger hunt filled with resources to support them and their well-being. Due to COVID-19, NAU has worked on creating events that are resourceful during these times. The event calendar is compact with consistent Zoom meetings like “Meditation Monday,” “Coping during Covid” and “Wellness Wednesdays.”

Vice president of MHSS, Dylan Cole, said he noticed that Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

 “With Suicide Prevention Day and National Suicide Awareness Week, it’s something that isn’t really discussed on any level that I’ve really noticed,” Cole said. “We have a bunch of different campaigns going on for different issues by Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They highlight different events, but I don't think that Suicide Awareness gets that same attention.”

The month of September helps people gain insight on how they can bring awareness, and what they can do to help those struggling with their mental health.  

Mental health struggles will not leave after September, and NAU has stayed consistent with representing counseling services, training and advocacy throughout the years for fellow Lumberjacks. 

Megan Gavin, NAU’s Counseling Services director and staff psychologist, said why September’s awareness week is crucial for NAU students.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students,” Gavin said in an email interview. “Thus, awareness around and support for students struggling with mental health issues is critical. If you or someone you know needs support, please contact Counseling Services 24/7, or the National Suicide Prevention Line.” 

No matter what situation someone is in, there are many resources to help others who are in need of help and want to talk to another person. Reaching out is the first step to find the resources one may need.