Appalachian State University will hold its first Suicide Prevention Awareness Week from April 21-25, focusing on community building and promoting positivity.
“The purpose of the week is to raise awareness about resources available, to promote the message that there is hope and help and to get our entire campus community involved in the very important work of preventing suicide,” said Elisabeth Cavallaro, Appalachian’s suicide prevention coordinator.
The week will begin with the Together We Rise kickoff event today and end with the first Out of the Darkness walk on Saturday morning. Out of the Darkness is dedicated to raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“There will be suicide prevention trainings on Tuesday and Wednesday where you can learn warning signs and how to help someone who is showing signs of emotional distress,” Cavallaro said.
Over the course of the academic year, Appalachian has had nine student deaths. Some of these were due to car accidents or medical emergencies, while in some cases, causes of death have not yet been ruled. Suicide has been a prominent issue and topic of discussion on Appalachian’s campus.
Cavallaro said many people, clubs and organizations – both on and off campus – have been involved in the planning of this week. Students from Student Government Association, Greek life, various campus ministries and the Wilson Scholars have all contributed.
“We channeled all of their energy into this one cohesive week,” Cavallaro said.
Additionally, Appalachian faculty, NAMI of the High Country, Daymark and the North Carolina Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention have also aided in different forms to this important week.
“Last year, we held our first annual Suicide Remembrance Night in late April and this year we wanted to expand that single day to a week’s worth of events,” Cavallaro said. “We knew we couldn’t do that without student support.”
Cavallaro expressed the importance of the campus uniting toward this cause.
“If we want things to change, if we want suicide rates to go down, it can’t be just one person’s job,” Cavallaro said. “It truly takes the commitment of the entire community.”
Sophomore psychology major Olivia Thorn and sophomore political science major Madeline Perrou sympathize with these convictions, which caused them to join the week’s planning committee.
“We’re in charge of planning the Suicide Remembrance Night,” Thorn said. “We’ve gone to weekly meeting with all of the committees to compare and talk about what will be happening each night.”
They said different representatives from various campus groups have been sent to help, while other members of the committee have volunteered.
“It’s important that people get involved in this, especially after the year we’ve had at school,” Perrou said. “It would be a good way to honor the people who have passed away, but also to make our campus aware that this is an issue and do something proactive and positive.”
Each committee has been planning since January for their specific events, while also planning with the whole group to be sure this particular week is a success.
“This week is important to overcome the stigma of mental illness.” Thorn said. “This is about being proactive as a campus and coming together after everything that has happened.”
Story: Josh Wharton, News Reporter
Infographic: Malik Rahili, Visual Managing Editor