Active Minds at Tufts, CMHS discuss suicide prevention efforts

Dani Coates and Bri Pastro, members of Active Minds at Tufts, pose for a photo behind their booth for suicide prevention in the Mayer Campus Center on Sept. 11, 2018. Courtesy Active Minds

Content warning: This article discusses suicide.

The Tufts chapter of Active Minds, a national organization dedicated to fighting mental health stigma and encouraging young adults to speak openly about mental health, spent Tuesday afternoon tabling at the Mayer Campus Center to advocate for mental health and suicide prevention as part of National Suicide Prevention Week.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15–24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, the suicide rate for adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 was 13.15 per 100,000 individuals, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

As part of Tufts Active Minds’ efforts, members arrayed a number of resources for students passing the table to take.

“We had a lot of different resources geared toward suicide prevention,” Emma Lampropoulos, who was tabling at the event, said. “We had little cards that had the suicide prevention lifeline, and we had pocket handbooks on how to reach out to a friend. We also had pamphlets from Counseling and Mental Health Service (CMHS).”

However, according to Lampropoulos, a senior, tabling may not have the intended impact on bystanders and vulnerable individuals.

“It was great for people who were passing by and were interested, but I think for some people who might really need it, it might not be as effective … because they might not be as likely to approach the table,” Lampropoulos said.

Active Minds at Tufts co-President Brianna Pastro emphasized that suicide prevention efforts need to continue throughout the year.

“I think one of the really important things about suicide prevention is that it’s not just this week, and that’s something that really gets forgotten,” Pastro, a senior, said. “People are consistently bringing it up when it’s salient, but it should always be salient, it should always be there.”

Psychologist Julie Jampel, director of training for CMHS, echoed this sentiment.

“At CMHS, we don’t simply focus on suicide prevention in September. In fact, we are involved in suicide prevention and mental health outreach all year long and in a wide variety of ways. These include educational outreach, direct services, consultation, and collaboration,” Jampel told the Daily in an email. “We also provide training to faculty, administrators, and student leaders to help them recognize and support students who need assistance with emotional and mental distress, including suicidal feelings.”

However, members of Active Minds at Tufts expressed that there is sometimes a gap between students’ needs and CMHS’ resources.

“I do think there is a disconnect between the student body, and the administration and CMHS,” Active Minds at Tufts co-President William Hodge said. “I think that is something that should be worked towards bridging, which is part of what Active Minds is trying to do.”

Pastro explained some of the concrete steps that Active Minds at Tufts will take, including participating in AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness Walk,” an event that helps to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention, on Oct. 27 at Boston City Hall Plaza.

“One thing I’m trying to do, especially this semester, with Active Minds is talk a lot about problems that don’t necessarily get talked about as much, like suicide,” Pastro said. “We don’t talk about lots of stuff that is present in our community … One of my goals for the club this semester is to be talking about it all the time.”

When asked about productive actions individuals can take to contribute to suicide prevention, Hodge, a senior, offered advice on how to talk to a friend one is concerned about.

“When it comes to suicidality, you shouldn’t beat around the bush,” Hodge said. “If you are worried about a friend… you should be direct and say, ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’”

“Being direct about it can save lives,” Hodge said.

Lampropoulos commented that being part of a friend’s support system can make all the difference.

“I think reaching out to friends is very important, and not just when they are in a crisis situation. I think just overall being very supportive of friends and letting them know that they are cared about and loved, that we are there for them whenever they need and that we value them as friends and as people is very important,” Lampropoulos said.

Jampel further expressed her ideals for the conversation around suicide prevention in the Tufts community.

“As a community, one of the most helpful things that we can all do is to take suicidal ideation seriously and to recognize that emotional and psychological distress is treatable. Suicide Prevention Week aims to increase awareness, and talking about it helps to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. Remember that it’s okay to ask someone how they are doing,” Jampel wrote.

Pastro emphasized that everyone in the Tufts community can promote suicide prevention by talking more about it.

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