I’ll admit that when I heard the names of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ernest Hemingway for the first few times, I only associated them with suicide. Being an English major I read works by many writers, and when I came across writers who have committed suicide, it was interesting to learn more about them from a stylistic standpoint and biographical standpoint, and not just from the fact that they committed suicide. Suicide has a major stigma attached to it, and in extension mental health concerns have stigmas. What I have found is that learning about these issues eliminated the stigma I had developed towards suicide and mental health issues as a result of societal constructs.
I attended the MUB Current Issues Lecture Series on September 30th entitled, “Heroic First Responder and Grateful Survivor: Officer Kevin Briggs and Suicide Survivor Kevin Berthia.” Back in 2005, Berthia was on the Golden Gate Bridge about to jump when Briggs, on duty with the California Highway Patrol, walked over to engage Berthia in a conversation. Over an hour later Berthia climbed back over the rail to the side where Briggs was standing.
The two re-connected in 2013, and are now traveling to speak about suicide awareness and prevention. Kevin Briggs emphasized in the talk the importance of understanding the crucial warning signs, which include “suicide threats, previous attempts, and feelings of being a burden.” Kevin Berthia emphasized that listening and offering compassion will greatly help the individual who is suffering. Berthia spoke specifically about Briggs having a “compassionate voice,” and how that was enough to engage Berthia’s attention and distract him from his plan to jump. Reflecting on the Lecture Series, the experience Kevin Briggs and Kevin Berthia shared was raw, honest, and eye opening.
The month of September 2015 was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. However, suicide prevention and awareness needs to be year round, 24/7. It is important and crucial that signs of any mental health concern are taken seriously.
Helping a Friend
One of the best ways you can help a friend is to know the 5 signs that may indicate someone is in emotional distress and may need help:
Getting Help at UNH
The staff at the Counseling Center are the mental health providers on campus and offer fantastic individual and group support and assistance to all UNH students. Also, a new student group focused on mental health is forming this year. Sean Moundas, Assistant Director of Outreach and Assessment, explains the goal(s) of the new student group is to “raise awareness on campus about mental health challenges and resources, and decrease stigma about having mental health challenges and seeking support.” This group is open to undergraduate and graduate level students.
Health Services is also a good resource. They work in conjunction with the Counseling Center to prescribe antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication. Additionally, Wellness Educators/Counselors are available to meet individually with students to provide opportunities to learn and practice a variety of relaxation techniques and other ways to take care of personal wellness.
The Counseling Center and Health Services can help if you are concerned about a friend and don’t know what to do.
UNH has an interactive online training program (Kognito) that will help you learn how to identify friends/classmates who may be struggling with mental health concerns and how you can help. This program is free and anyone in the UNH community can take the training.
I personally believe that here at UNH we are responsible for each other. If you know of anyone having a difficult time who presents warning signs, do not hesitate in seeking help and support for that student. In an immediate emergency, call 911.
Let’s take care of each other, Wildcats!