From Sept. 9 to 14, To Write Love On Her Arms at Boston College (TWLOHA-BC) hosted a series of events to spread awareness about the prevalence of suicide within our society and to open a conversation with BC students about the issue.
Throughout the week, students learned about the realities of suicide, including the severity of the problem in America and how the BC community can play a role in suicide prevention.
TWLOHA is a national non-profit organization dedicated to “presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicide.” One of the group's objectives at BC is to bring mental health awareness to the Boston College campus through events like National Suicide Prevention Week. The group also hopes to create an on-campus atmosphere that understands the truth about mental health, and fosters a safe environment in which students can feel supported.
National Suicide Prevention Week at BC started off on Monday, Sept. 9 with a "bottling" exercise on O’Neill plaza. Students were invited to write their emotions and thoughts on little notes, which were then sealed in bottles.
“Some students really took their time in writing their notes,” said TWLOHA-BC member Stephanie Wall, MCAS '19. She stated that many students were very reflective while writing and some told her to send their notes “out to sea.” This small but effective exercise provided BC students with a safe place to start a conversation about suicide and suicide prevention.
On Tuesday, TWLOHA-BC placed 1100 yellow pinwheels on the academic quad to represent the 1100 college students that commit suicide each year in the United States. According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide is the second leading cause of death among university students.
TWLOHA-BC hosted a suicide prevention workshop in Higgins on Wednesday night with special guest speaker Rose Cheyette of the Samaritans organization. The Samaritans works to “prevent suicide and support those who have lost someone to suicide.”
Cheyette is a manager at Samaritans. She uses her position to educate committees on suicide prevention, through community education and outreach; intervention, through crisis services such as the 24 hour hotline; and postvention, through grief support services.
In her presentation, she noted that 44,965 people die annually in the United States due to suicide and that 90% of cases have a diagnosable mental health condition. She also mentioned that 631 suicides were reported last year in the state of Massachusetts. This statistic, compared with other states, is very low. She explained that this is mostly due to the state’s strict laws regarding access to lethal weapons.
Cheyette’s main goal is to facilitate open conversation about suicide as a public health crisis and to provide a hopeful and empathetic ear to anyone who needs it, via a hotline or text.
TWLOHA-BC and Cheyette both agree that recognizing some of the major risk factors and warning signs is crucial in preventing suicide. Some risk factors include social isolation, high levels of stress, and bullying. Some warning signs to look out for are verbal cues such as jokes about death, physical signs like sleeping vast amounts, and behavioral changes such as withdrawing from friends and family.
The next steps in suicide prevention include directly asking the person at risk to open up about their feelings and seeking help from professionals. There are many hotlines, linked below, that can be called for help. If danger is imminent, 911 should be called immediately.
TWLOHA-BC also claims that changing the language surrounding suicide will lesson the stigma around the subject. Slight changes include switching “committed suicide” to “died by suicide.” This change puts a stop to the mindset that suicide is a selfish act.
In an email to The Gavel, a TWLOHA-BC representative stated, “If we change the way we speak about suicide, the way we and our society view it will begin to change.”
National Suicide Prevention Week will continue with the screening of “It's Real: College Students and Mental Health” followed by a discussion in Higgins 310 at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13.
To wrap up the week, orange ribbons to represent the National Suicide Prevention Week will be passed out to BC students on Friday.
Call 911 if danger is imminent
Samaritans Boston Helpline - 1-877-870-4673 (HOPE)
Available 24 hours a day by phone or text.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Available in English and Spanish.
Boston Emergency Services Team (B.E.S.T.) - 1-800-981-HELP
24-hour service by Master’s level clinicians/physicians specializing in psychiatric crises.
Emergency Services Program Mobile Crisis Intervention - 1-877-382-1609
Enter your zip code to get your local Emergency Services Program provider.
TWLOHA’s Local Resource Finder