On Monday, Oct. 7, the first annual Suicide Awareness Day took place in War Memorial Student Union and Park. The event was organized by student Melanie Mann and received sponsorship from several organizations at Southeastern and in the local community.
Mann was inspired to spread suicide awareness when she learned of two students who committed suicide in the past year.
“I didn’t know them personally but I was affected by it. So I decided that something needed to be done because I feel that two is two too many,” said Mann, “It’s just a big community effort to spread awareness and support that a lot of students need.”
Mann spoke to Dr. Barbara Hebert, of the Counseling Center, and seven organizations about having an awareness day and they all were on board with having the event.
The University Counseling Center, Social Work Club, Student Sociological Association, StandOUT, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), STOPS of St. Tammany, and the Student United Way were all present for Suicide Awareness Day.
Organizations at the event gave out pamphlets to let students know the warning signs of suicide and also information on how and where to go to receive help. There was also an area where students could post messages on how suicide has impacted their life.
Mann is working closely with Ashley Royerre, NAMI member and communication science disorders graduate student, to start a Southeastern chapter of NAMI. The organization would be dedicated to helping students.
“We want to raise awareness on campus and just kind of promote a community where people can talk about what is going on in their lives and how mental illness has affected them,” said Royerre.
Royerre also said they would like to advocate for better mental health services on campus and have events such as a Mental Illness Movie Night where students can watch movies like Silver Linings Playbook. NAMI is a national organization and Royerre and other Southeastern students have participated in NAMIWalks, which is a fundraiser to help fight the stigma of mental illness. Royerre and Mann hope to form the Southeastern chapter of NAMI by Spring 2014.
Seth Martin, biology major and StandOUT member, was tabling and handing out information about suicide to students. Martin said that StandOUT is not just a gay pride club, they spread awareness against bullying, suicide and other issues. Last month the club participated in a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, an organization focused on preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth.