The University of Cincinnati’s Undergraduate Student Government (SG) hosted presentations on suicide prevention and bystander intervention during its senate meeting Feb. 20.
Jennifer Wright-Berryman, assistant professor at the College of Allied Health Sciences; and Lori Bishop-Ley, assistant director at the UC Student Wellness Center, each prepared a presentation for the meeting. In her presentation on suicide prevention, Berryman urged students to actively pursue change.
“I want to challenge you to not be afraid,” said Berryman. “Go out into your public spaces and private spaces, whether it be home with a roommate, partner, spouse or your friends, in your classes, places of worship — I want you to start taking about suicide as a public health problem.”
According to national statistics from Emory University, 1,000 suicides occur on college campuses each year. One in 10 students have considered suicide.
At UC, the National College Health Assessment found in 2016 that 10 percent of students had attempted suicide in the last 12 months. Of those surveyed, just 6.5 percent had accessed university counseling services.
Depression is not uncommon among college students, who often face chronic stress and emotional pain, among other internal and external factors. Berryman encouraged students to understand the difference between depression and despair.
“Any number of reasons that could cause me emotional pain — when that settles in and starts to feel like nothing can pull that blanket over my head — people call that depression,” she said. “What it is … is despair.”
Students play an important role in suicide prevention as members of the UC community, said Berryman. That role begins with caring, reaching out and building support.
“There is not too much for you to handle with a tribe,” said Berryman. “We never have to handle, work with or be with someone in their despair alone. The idea is to help build a tribe — a network of connections and social support for people who are living with this sadness.”
That sadness can sometimes stem from gender-based violence. Roughly 23.1 percent of female and 5.4 percent of male undergraduate students experience rape and sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
In her presentation on bystander intervention, Ley said gender-based violence is about power and control, and only the perpetrator of the violence is responsible for it. Ley offered three solutions to bystander barriers: be direct, distract or delegate.
“It takes some creativity to think about how to intervene, [and] it also takes teamwork,” said Ley. “Think of it as a community. If we all together recognize that something bad is going on, and together we intervene and make that a normal thing, that is what this is all about.”