By Megan DeBoer
Across the nation, millions recognize September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the University of Nebraska at Omaha is no exception.
UNO’s student-led organization NAMI on Campus offers an empathetic and listening ear to those in need, raises awareness and emphasizes the importance of mental health.
“NAMI on Campus provides evidence-based research towards information and education in events or sessions to the students, as we are nothing more than peers who may or may not have lived experience with mental illness or have a shared interest in mental health,” said president of NAMI on Campus Jennifer Alquicira.
At least one in four adults struggle with a mental illness in a given year and one in every 12 college students make a suicide plan, according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression.
Approximately 90 percent of those who die by suicide experience a mental illness that too often goes untreated because of the intense shame surrounding it, according to NAMI research.
Additionally, in many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss are left in the dark with the feelings of stigma preventing them from coming forward to talk openly.
UNO’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS) is dedicated to working with students, faculty and staff to provide services that can help with challenges that have impacted overall well-being.
In about eight to 10 sessions, CAPS uses a short-term model of therapy to address problems or concerns.
“[These resources are] definitely helpful,” said Dr. Charlene Patterson, a CAPS psychologist. “Without counseling services on campus, many students would be unable to access community resources to address their mental health issues or concerns.”
On September 13, national Suicide Prevention Day, NAMI and the Student Social Work organization hosted a 12-hour suicide prevention event, which featured speakers, information tables, demonstrations, a candlelight vigil and a movie to raise awareness and gain support.
Alquicira said the event was a start in “getting students talking and forgiving those who have taken their lives.”
“This month is meant to teach those who feel like they have no way out or feel completely out of touch from themselves to know they are not alone,” Alquicira said. “Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help at your lowest point. Always take care of yourself, including your mental health.”