ATLANTA – Students, faculty and staff on Mercer University’s Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus are combining their efforts for the fourth consecutive year to encourage those across Metro Atlanta to “Reach Out, Speak Out” during National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 4-10.
“Sadly, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15-24,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Mercer. “Bringing attention to the resources available for those in crisis is an essential step in the ongoing effort to reduce the number of suicides and bring hope to those in despair. ‘Reach Out, Speak Out’ is leading the way in building awareness at Mercer and across the nation, and I am proud of Mercer’s efforts in this important cause.”
Three days of events are scheduled on campus Sept. 6-8 to communicate the message that there is hope and there is help for those contemplating suicide. This year, organizers hope to expand Mercer’s suicide prevention efforts beyond the week through participation in events such as Georgia’s College Suicide Prevention Coalition. The initiative also regularly shares information and resources via its Facebook page.
“Our goals are to establish an environment on campus in which individuals are comfortable to reach out for help without being stigmatized and also to train our students and faculty as to how to get help for someone in crisis,” said Dr. Kathy Robinson, assistant professor of counseling in Mercer’s Penfield College. “This year, we are including information about the ‘Zero Suicide’ initiative, which is based on the notion that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.”
The primary objective of the initiative continues to be suicide prevention training. Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainings for students, faculty and staff will be offered throughout the week. QPR is the most widely taught, evidence-based gatekeeper training program in the United States, as more than one million people have been trained in classroom settings and online. Additional QPR sessions will be offered in the spring, as well.
Dr. Robinson will conduct the trainings for students in Wooten Auditorium on Sept. 6 at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and for faculty and staff in Business and Education Academic Building Room 221 on Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. Online reservations are required for both student and faculty/staff trainings.
Information tables will be set up at six locations around campus Tuesday through Thursday to provide suicide prevention materials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as “Reach Out, Speak Out” wristbands, stickers and lifesavers. A prize patrol will reward students wearing the stickers during the week.
Perimeter Pet Pals – a non-profit, volunteer-driven initiative aimed at promoting love, courage and empowerment to people in need through interaction with highly trained pets and their handlers – will present pet therapy techniques in the Monroe F. Swilley Jr. Library on Tuesday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Thursday at 12 p.m.
Mu Upsilon Alpha, a chapter of Chi Sigma Iota international honor society for students, professional counselors and counselor educators, will be hosting a free Continuing Education Unit (CEU) workshop Sept. 8, 5-6:30 p.m., in the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center chapel. Wendy Martinez Farmer, LPC, CEO of Behavioral Link, will be conducting the workshop, titled “A Crisis Has No Schedule: How to Connect Individuals in Crisis to Services in Real Time Using the Georgia Crisis and Access Line.”
A candlelight vigil, hosted by McAfee School of Theology, will close out the week’s events on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center chapel.
“Reach Out, Speak Out” originated in Penfield College, which offers undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs to working adult learners on the Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, Douglas County, Henry County and Newnan regional academic centers, and online. Begun in 2013, the initiative quickly expanded to include other areas of the University.