Promoting suicide prevention programs

Suicide. For most of us, it doesn’t seem to exist. It’s merely a construct of our imagination; it lives in the realm of possibility. There’s no way it could happen to our friends, family or the people we know. It’s just a term we’re taught to fear.

Nevertheless, the College of William and Mary administration is on a mission. The Office of Health Education, with the help of Kognito’s At-Risk for University Students program, is prepared to drag suicide out from the shadows and into everyday consciousness.

There’s no need to describe why the College needs such a program. Past tragedies speak for themselves. That said, the program aims to help prevent future suicides and suicide attempts.

I applaud the College’s adaption of the program; it is a step in the right direction. More than that, it’s a leap in the right direction.

First, the program has few downsides. What’s the harm? It’s a voluntary program designed to make students more aware and prepare them to help someone in a time of distress. There’s not a syllable in that sentence that should make any student groan or roll their eyes.

It’s voluntary. That means you don’t have to do it. This isn’t like AlcoholEdu — it’s not a program that requires a commitment or forces you to memorize the part of the brain affected by alcohol (it’s the hippocampus — I think). It’s not a lame set of animated PowerPoint slides either; it’s a well designed Avatar simulation. It’s already better than AlcoholEdu — this program at least looks cool.

It’s meant to make students aware and prepared to help someone in distress. If you have a problem with that, you can stop reading now.

This really is a win-win situation. It’s as if one of your professors walks up and literally hands you the answers to Monday’s test. Not only that, but if you take the answers, you’re saving someone’s life. All you have to do is flip through and learn. It’s quick, painless and a no-brainer.

You might argue that you’re just too busy. I can buy this argument, as this is a campus of classic overachievers and kids who constantly push the boundaries of sleep-deprivation.

This is why I propose the College gives out rewards for participation. I know the email that the College sent out to the student body says that one student will win a Playstation 3 game console. But, come on — no one wins those things, right? So let’s make the reward something actually feasible.

Option one: Give a quarter of a credit for each time a student participates. That way, if students takes part in the program each year from their freshman year, they can accumulate up to one credit. If scuba-diving one weekend is good for one credit, surely a program focused on suicide prevention is worthy as well.

Option two: Five or 10 — the number isn’t important — students get drawn randomly from a list of those who have completed the program. These students receive priority registration — they can register 10 minutes ahead of their classmates. Now you want to participate, don’t you?

Option three: Same format as above, but the selected students get the first crack at the William and Mary Police bike sale in the fall. Motivation? Yep, especially for people like me, who only have about two out of seven gears working properly.

In all sincerity, though, I highly encourage every student to take part in this program. With suicide being such a major issue on campus, do your part as a member of the Tribe. Inform yourself and be ready to help others.

While the material benefits of participation aren’t very high, the moral and the I-want-to-be-a-good-person benefits are. Buck up and take half an hour out of your day, not for yourself, but for that someone who will need you down the road. Do it for them.


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