By: Lydia Rogers
Active Minds and the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) teamed up on Monday to sponsor a talk about suicide prevention, “How to Help a Friend Who is Considering Suicide” in Smith Hall.
“There are so many people that, unfortunately, have some encounter with suicide whether it be a personal attempt, knowing someone who attempted or knowing someone who actually took their own life,” Elliot Rhodes, SHAC’s head of mental health awareness, said.
“None of these situations should be overlooked as less serious; all of them have a huge impact on people’s lives,” he said.
Psychology professor Dr. Nick Salsman, a board-certified clinical psychologist, specialized in suicidal tendencies in graduate school and was the key speaker at the event.
Salsman studied under psychologist and author Marsha Linehan of the University of Washington, who was the creator of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a combination technique of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.
DBT has been effective in treating eating disorders, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. Dr. Salsman discussed DBT and its role in aiding patients who display suicidal tendencies.
The talk was focused on ways to prevent those who display suicidal tendencies from committing the act and how to talk to those who have already attempted or are considering suicide.
“In this talk, we hope to open up discussion about the topic instead of shunning it as is done so often because of the discomfort that usually accompanies these conversations,” Rhodes said.
Salsman also addressed other topics such as how to assess and manage the risk of suicide, tips on how to interact with someone you may believe to be suicidal, how to address someone’s past attempts and what preventative steps should be taken when you know someone is considering suicide.
“My hope is that I can provide the attendees with some knowledge that may help them to help others who may be suicidal,” Salsman said.
The talk was followed by a more informal and discussion-based question and answer session.
“Active Minds (and) SHAC hope that students leave the presentation not only with the knowledge of how to help a friend, but also with a sense of confidence and a sense of urgency,” Active Minds President Kaela Allton said. “This subject matter is of critical importance – it’s essentially a matter of life and death.”
Active Minds reported that 1,100 college students die by suicide each year and the talk aimed to raise campus awareness of that fact.
“We hope that students will recognize the need for action and/or the need to have that hard conversation because that decision to ask a friend what’s going on may be exactly what that friend needs,” Allton said.