Amid tragedy, university offers hope


Photo by Dallas Linger | The Appalachian

Jonas Heidenreich

A training series called Survive and Thrive, aimed at educating students on how to address and prevent suicide, was launched by Appalachian State University’s counseling center Sept. 29.

According to the American College Health Association, suicide rates have tripled since the 1950s, causing universities to employ more proactive strategies to create conversation about mental health issues.

The trainings, which are part of Appalachian’s It’s Up to Me campaign, provide students with skills on how to talk to someone who may be dealing with depression or suicide ideation, what signs to look for and where to refer people who are in need of assistance.

According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2011, 39,518 people in the United States died by suicide. Among these deaths, the CDC found 1,100 to be college students.

“To put that larger number in perspective, if we were to fill Kidd Brewer Stadium there would still be more people that died by suicide,” said Elisabeth Cavallaro, the suicide prevention coordinator for the counseling center and organizer of the prevention workshops.

Cavallaro said the counseling center and the university’s administration seek to have conversations that will create awareness.

“We want faculty, staff and students to actually have the conversation with each other when they are concerned about someone’s mental health,” Cavallaro said.

In a random weighted survey of 400 students conducted on Appalachian’s campus by the counseling center, it was found that on average,18.7 percent of students felt hopeless and 25.9 percent feel very lonely, a common thread among college campuses.

“Everyone matters, and we don’t want anyone to feel alone,” said J.J. Brown, Dean of Students. “Having resources available, along with a supportive community is how we all play a role in helping one another.”

Brown said he has dealt with suicide in his family and knows the struggles it can bring.

“Many years ago, my step-brother died by suicide,” Brown said. “I saw him struggle in many ways, and he struggled with feeling alone and helpless. I truly want our students to know they have people that care them here on this campus, and that things will get better despite some of the challenges which someone may be feeling and going through.”

The counseling center continues to offer resources that help students. The Survive and Thrive workshops will continue Oct. 28 at 12:30 p.m. in the Three Top Mountain Room of the student union and will end Dec. 4.

Story: Jonas Heidenreich, Intern News Reporter