In honor of Suicide Prevention Month, CSU Bakersfield’s Associated Students’ Inc. (ASI) dedicated a week to getting students actively involved in the conversation of suicide prevention. The week-long event comprised of different ways to encourage students and help them feel less alone, including two community events held over Zoom.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, not only is suicide the most preventable cause of death, but it is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. This has created a need for open, judgement-free, discussions to help ensure everyone has the resources they need.
They kicked off the week on Sept. 6 by encouraging students to tag them in an Instagram post answering how they can be an activist themselves. ASI posted the responses to their Instagram story.
A free giveaway began on Sept. 7 allowed all students the opportunity to enter for an unknown prize. To be entered into the drawing to win the giveaway, participants had to explain why they speak out about suicide prevention. These responses were submitted as an Instagram post using the hashtag #ReasonsWhyISpeakCSUB.
Caitlin Livingston, the ASI Director of Student Support and president of the Mental Health Advocacy club, hosted the two Zoom events.
The panel held on Sept. 10 included ASI staff members Myles Howard, the Director of Veterans Affairs, Allie Page, the Director of Arts and Humanities, and Maria Espinoza, Vice President of University Affairs. Each panelist shared different methods to explore one’s mental health, especially during the pandemic.
Howard suggested the Veterans Center for any veterans that are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, as the center can help connect veterans with the resources they need. He also stressed the importance of checking in with fellow veterans, as they may need someone to talk to about topics that they know only a fellow veteran could relate to.
Page listed some ways she copes with the stress of online school. She said that it can be as simple as going outside and looking at nature to reground herself and remember that she is a living being on this planet.
According to a poll hosted on The Runner’s Instagram, 86% of students responded that they feel like they have someone they can talk to when they are having negative thoughts.
Some Instagram users shared with The Runner some of the ways that they have navigated harmful thoughts, potentially helping others find the right coping strategy for them.
“I kept a journal and would write out all my feelings. Praying & reading my Bible also helped,” one user wrote.
This preference for self-reflection was common in the responses students gave, as students wrote that they needed to take a moment for themselves.
“I’ve learned to reset my priorities. Have more time for myself before anyone,” another student wrote.
Student feedback emphasized the importance of acknowledging one’s mental health in order to be the best version of themselves.
This was also one of the core concepts from both Zoom events, as the expert panelists focused on helping students understand how to become more in-tune with their mental health needs, as well as how to safely handle intense negative feelings.
The “Be There Today Be There Tomorrow” event on Sept. 11, gave local experts the opportunity to discuss suicide prevention, as well as mental health.
Among the panelists were Ellen Eggert from Bakersfield Behavioral Health, Janet Millar and Ruth Miles from CSUB’s Counseling Center, and Sharon Woolfolk from the Kern County National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The events were filled with reminders of resources available to everybody in hopes of breaking the stigma associated with mental health and the use of counseling.
“Anybody can save a life,” Eggert said, “51 percent of people in the United States who die by suicide use a firearm. If you have a firearm in your home, every person in that home is three times more likely to die by suicide.”
Eggert personally runs the Kern Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline, ensuring all calls are free of judgement.
Millar encouraged CSUB students to check out the counseling center, as it is already paid for each semester through student fees. As of this time, it has been determined that their services will be offered through private Zoom and phone calls during the pandemic.
Millar said there is no need to worry about being judged by counselors either, having heard it all over their collective century of experience among the seven councilors.
“It doesn’t matter what it is. Call us. Let us help,” Millar said.
Woolfolk encourages community members to contact the Kern County National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline for a variety of resources; they can be reached at 661-858-3255.
The Kern Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline is 1-800-991-5272; the Spanish Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-888-624-9454.
CSUB’s main campus counseling center can be reached at 661-952-5099; the Antelope Valley campus can be contacted at 661-952-5099.
For LGBT students who would prefer to speak to someone they know, there is a list of trained mental health allies and information about the Safe Zone Program at CSUB available on the Counseling Center’s website. Some of CSUB’s Safe Zone allies include Dr. Carol Raupp from the psychology department and Dr. Carol Dell’ Amico from the English department.
Check out the resources below to learn more:
For the CSUB Counseling Center: https://www.csub.edu/counselingcenter/
For the Safe Zone webpage: https://www.csub.edu/counselingcenter/safezone/
For more information on Bakersfield Behavioral Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Resources: https://www.bakersfieldbehavioral.com/blog/youth-suicide-awareness-resources
For information on NAMI Kern County: https://namica.org/locations/nami-kern-county/