USC Student Health held two open discussions centered on suicide prevention on Monday. These were the only USC-hosted events for National Suicide Prevention Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness about suicide. However, the discussion was cut short after no students showed up — not a single seat was filled during both sessions.
While the lack of attendees may have dampened the intended discussion, professionals still emphasized the need for open forums among students and faculty.
“The reality [is] that student populations are experiencing seemingly more distress yearly,” said Dr. Robert Mendola, the division’s executive director and division chief for student mental health. “We have to identify what’s going on and how to prevent this trend.”
The discussion was meant to inform students about a suicide prevention tactic titled “Take 5 to save lives,” which presenters said can take as little as five minutes to implement. The tactic includes educating students on signs of suicide, self-care, awareness and the importance of reaching out to professionals.
The forum was also meant to address the increased risk of suicide among marginalized groups including the LGBTQ community.
“What we do see is that the [suicide] rates are very high for the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Kelly Greco, the assistant director of outreach and prevention services.
Throughout this week, USC will be emphasizing the importance of spreading awareness among peers across social media platforms. There will also be a large focus on encouraging students to participate in an ongoing dialogue that extends far past this week.
“This is a topic and dialogue that needs to be continuous throughout the year,” Greco said.
The Engemann Student Health Center has started working with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps evaluate a campus’ needs for mental health services and creates comprehensive systems, programs and policies tailored toward mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts. By integrating the Jed program onto campus, the health center can pinpoint specific issues to target that are present in the well-being of USC students.
“Our efforts are increasing because our resources are increasing,” Mendola said while referring to the addition of 10 new therapists to the counseling center’s resources. “By increasing our therapists by 10, we’re not just increasing direct service to students, we’re increasing our availability to engage in programs.”
An example of a new program the center is offering comes in the form of “Feel Better” workshops, which cover topics on anxiety, resilience and other issues present on campus. The workshops encourage proactive student participation in a safe environment; however, they will only take place during the beginning of the semester. Another resource mentioned was Trojan Care for Trojans, an anonymous request form available to all students if they feel worried about a peer.
“The undertone of all of this is how do we create a campus driven by a culture of student wellbeing?” said Paula Swinford, the director of the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion.