UBC encourages campus to reach out for Suicide Awareness day

On January 25, UBC is hosting Suicide Awareness Day to engage in a campus-wide conversation about suicide and mental health. The campaign is focused on the message “reach out” and getting students, staff and faculty to become aware of resources available to them on campus.

“We’ll have booths at key locations on campus, and street teams going out and handing out pens and promo material, as well as having this conversation about what is suicide awareness day, what does that mean to reach out and what resources are available on campus,” said Naomi Schatz, co-chair of the Suicide Awareness committee.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to wear orange to demonstrate their support, or alternatively wear one of the orange stickers available at any of the boothing locations across campus.

“It’s really about raising the profile of the day on campus and using that as an opportunity to signal that throughout the community, no matter where you go throughout your day, that you might come across someone with a sticker or wearing orange,” said Miranda Massie, co-chair of UBC’s Thrive committee. “That’s just a nonverbal cue that people are thinking about it and trying to show their support for people who have had a loved one affected by suicide or who may be having those thoughts themselves.”

Schatz and Massie emphasized that they wanted the message to spread not just to students, but to staff and faculty as well.

“I think that it’s important for everyone to be involved in this messaging and this campaign because [suicide] touches everyone. It’s everyone’s business, and we should all be involved in working together to create a supportive and caring community on campus,” said Schatz. “We do have resources available and I think a lot of the time, students, faculty and staff may not be aware of the resources available.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among 15 to 29-year-olds. According to a 2014 report on BC Adolescent Health, 8 per cent of male students and 17 per cent of female students reported thoughts of suicide this year. There have been 17 attempted suicides and one completed suicide reported to UBC Campus Security since January 1, 2015.

“It takes people from that awareness piece, which is what we’re hoping to do for the day to just orient people to services and resources, and it takes them one step further and allows them to get into that area of actual suicide prevention — so having those skills and having those tools at the ready in case you come across a colleague, a friend [or] a family member and you can put those skills into action,” said Massie.