More than 1,100 college students commit suicide each year.
To hopefully reduce that figure, East Tennessee State University has been participating in National Suicide Awareness Week this week.
Thursday, near the school’s iconic amphitheater, Mental Health Awareness Day was recognized with games, pizza, drinks, prizes, music and plenty of information on how to seek treatment for mental health.
This is the third year the event has been held and is made possible through the ETSU PEAKS (Prevention through Education, Awareness and Knowledge of Suicide) group, which was established through a grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Jameson Hirsch is the director of the ETSU PEAKS project and an assistant professor of psychology.
Hirsch said the event included 1,100 black flags planted in the ground near the amphitheater in memory of those college students who killed themselves this past year.
“You know, I think when people have good stuff inside of them that helps to counteract some of the negative feelings like depression, anxiety, suicide,” he said, referring to the activities Thursday.
Kristin Walker, project coordinator for the ETSU PEAKS grant and graduate student in clinical psychology, said data shows more than 30 percent of college students have suicidal thoughts.
“So we’re talking about a really big issue on campuses across the country as well as here at ETSU,” she said. “But it is still something that is an uncomfortable thing for people to talk about.”
Events like the one Thursday are designed to change that by “promoting a message of mental health awareness ... and just trying to promote an atmosphere where people feel more comfortable talking about mental health,” Walker said.
For more information on services related to mental health visit www.etsu.edu/etsupeaks.