Lee's Say Something club acknowledges September as National Suicide Prevention Month
September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness month—a time when people have a candid conversation about suicide prevention by sharing stories, statistics and resources.
Many Lee students are somehow impacted by the heartbreak and confusion of suicide. Suicide is the “second leading cause of death in people ages 15-24,” according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.
Say Something, a mental health club on campus, has dedicated this month’s meetings to discussing suicide prevention. Junior communications major Ashley English is the co-president of the club.
“It is a taboo subject,” said English. “We want to show that this is something that people do struggle with, but it’s often pushed under the rug.”
English explained that sometimes within Christian circles, suicide may not be addressed directly or adequately.
Steve Knapp is a licensed staff counselor at Lee’s Counseling Center. He said when it comes to the Church’s response, everyone’s experience is different.
“There is a vast spectrum of how the Church responds to any sort of mental health issues,” Knapp said. “Some think anything outside the Bible is unnecessary, while some churches are wonderfully supportive. I’m encouraged by the movement of the Church in a lot of ways.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is a substantial increase in suicide rates for populations such as LBGTQ individuals, veterans and people who abuse alcohol or drugs.
“We’re talking about this issue more and more in our culture, which is a good thing, but not always in the most hopeful way,” said Knapp. “People are engaging what’s going on internally, which can be really dangerous if there’s not a sense of hope.”
Lee requires all Residential Life staff to complete crisis training, and Lee faculty have the option to attend Question, Persuade, Refer— a suicide prevention training program.
Knapp explains that there is a delicate balance when discussing suicide productively.
“There’s a tension with being honest with what you’re experiencing and being intentional in moving towards hope and gratitude. Do both. It’s not easy to do both,” Knapp said. “But if students will sit in the tension of both, it will go a long way.”
As someone who has personal exposure to suicide, English recommends treading lightly when discussing the topic, offering an empathetic, relational approach. Avoid graphic words or images that may trigger those affected, but also recognize that you are not solely responsible for the person’s actions.
“Know what you can do and know what you can’t do. And don’t do it alone. You can do something, but you can never do everything,” said Knapp. “There is certainly hope. It’s a process, and it takes time, but there’s hope.”
Say Something meets every Thursday at 5 p.m. in Humanities 206. The Lee University Counseling Center is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-614-8415.