CIO hosts Suicide Prevention Week on Grounds

To Write Love On Her Arms prepares week of events


In the spring, the CIO placed 1,100 black flags on Grounds to represent every student who committed suicide in the past year.

Akash Khungar | Cavalier Daily

Mental illness is a constant concern at universities across the country, and suicide rates are currently the highest they have been in 30 years, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aimed at combatting statistics like these, CIO To Write Love On Her Arms will host a number of events this coming week to raise awareness, foster discussion and erase stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.

The week will kick off with the painting of Beta Bridge by club members and anyone else who wishes to participate. On Tuesday, TWLOHA will partner with the Shelter for Help and Emergency to host a discussion on how intimate partner violence, mental illness and suicide relate.

“It’s pretty common to experience mental health issues after experiencing some kind of violence,” third-year College student Shweta Tembe said. “There’s a lot of evidence that it’s important to get help in a situation like that.”

At this and other events, TWLOHA will provide resource sheets so students know how to get help if they need it.

Tembe said the event she is most looking forward to is Friday’s Yoga and Mindfulness to Reduce Stress, co-hosted by the Contemplative Sciences Center.

“It’s good for people who aren’t sure if they want to get involved in mental health,” Tembe said.

On the other hand, current TWLOHA President Megan Mason Dister, a third-year College student, said she is most excited about the talk with Dr. Richard Merkel, entitled “Why We Have Not Yet Prevented Suicide.”

“He has a background in psychiatry and anthropology, so I think it will be really interesting to bring in those two backgrounds,” Mason Dister said.

The week will culminate in World Suicide Prevention Day, on which TWLOHA asks students to wear orange to show their support. Nationally, TWLOHA’s suicide prevention campaign centers around a different statement every year. This year, that statement is “And then I kept living,” taken from Matt Haig’s “Reasons to Stay Alive.”

The organization usually hosts one major event per semester. Last spring, TWLOHA put up 1,100 black flags in the University amphitheater — one flag for every college student who committed suicide in the last year.

While this event was mainly concentrated on raising awareness, the group focuses both on bringing attention to issues concerning mental health and promoting discussion in a safe space. In planning events, members aim to strike a balance between these two goals.

“A challenge… when choosing events and choosing speakers [is] deciding ‘Is this too scholarly?’ We want to make sure we’re focusing on preventing suicide, but still make sure things are not too upsetting,” Tembe said.

TWLOHA members began planning the events in June and had to do much of the work over the summer, with each member assigned multiple tasks. Right now, TWLOHA is a relatively small group, with only 10 members. However, Tembe and Mason Dister are hoping to increase its membership as a result of the coming events and a successful interest meeting.

“People should feel like the can come even if they’re not sure why they’re there,” Tembe said. “I’m sure they’ll learn something or feel some kind of camaraderie.”

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