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UALR to host first suicide prevention week

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on September 4, 2013 – 2:25 pmNo Comment

Illustration by Byron Buslig

UALR will host its first suicide prevention week Sept. 9 through 13 to raise awareness about suicide and other mental health problems.

Amy Muse, a student development specialist with counseling and career planning services, said she hopes to destigmatize mental health.
“We want to show people who are struggling that it’s okay and that there is help available,” she said.

The week will kick off noon Monday with the chancellor’s proclamation and a ribbon cutting ceremony in the DSC mall area.

On Tuesday, there will be a booth in the mall area from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the residence halls. Items will be given away and a “creativity station,” where students can decorate bags with messages to help those who are struggling and memorialize anyone they may have lost, Muse said.

The Gallery of Hope art contest will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the DSC upper concourse. Skylar Whitaker, a sophomore sociology major and founder of the UALR Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said works will include “anything to express the idea of hope and strength.”

Submissions can come from any student, staff member or faculty member at the university. Categories include visual, written and performance art related to the theme: hope and strength in surviving and preventing suicide.

Volunteers will judge  submissions based on relevance and creativity. It is a creative, not technical, contest, Muse said. Every entry will win a prize, like gift certificates for food and car washes. The best in show will be awarded a glass trophy, pictured on the Gallery of Hope flyers.

A memorial walk from the mall area to the Cooper Fountain and back will take place 7:30 p.m. Thursday. By then, the bags from the creativity station will decorate a display wall where all can see them.

“It’s going to be pretty powerful, I think,” Muse said.

A suicide prevention workshop will take place in counseling services noon Friday, followed by an open house. The workshop will teach people how to help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, and the open house will let people know where counseling services is located and what is available there, Muse said.

“We’re going to talk about how it’s okay to ask someone if they’re suicidal,” she said. “People think asking them will put the idea in their head, but the research just doesn’t support that. Being open and blunt is the best way to go about that.”

Muse added that they would also cover warning signs and referral services on campus.

Signup sheets for the UALR Foundation for Suicide Prevention will also be available. Whitaker started the foundation after reading a Forum article about high rates of suicidal ideation at UALR, he said. After finding there was no suicide prevention group on campus, he started one in spring 2013. The organization is based on the idea that “suicide is not a dirty word.” He added that he hopes to make suicide prevention week an annual event.

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