The Stony Brook community came together on Tuesday, April 7 and Thursday, April 9 during “Part of the Pack,” a two-part suicide awareness and prevention program sponsored by the Residence Hall Association and the National Residence Hall Honorary program aimed to unite Stony Brook students as a community to talk about the stigma of suicide and depression on college campuses so students could gain a better understanding of mental disorders and how to obtain help for them.
According to a study by Emory University, more than 1,000 students commit suicide on college campuses per year. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death of people aged 15-24, the age of most undergraduates, and the second-leading cause of death of people aged 25-34, the age of most graduate students.
Though this is the first year the event has been held at Stony Brook, the executive board members of RHA and NRHH are hoping to make the event an annual one.
“The whole idea of this event is that this is the beginning,” Sunjum Dhariwal, the RHA senior vice president, said. “We want to take the shame out of the word suicide and that, as students, we can do a lot to change this. So let’s start it now. Let’s start a conversation today.”
Part one of the program was scheduled to start in the SAC where students would light candles and take a walk down the academic Mall. However, due to the rain, the event was moved to Ammann Lounge in Mendelsohn Quad.
Inside the lounge, there were tables set up, filled with “Part of the Pack” buttons and candles for students to take. A large, yellow poster was set up for students to write their pledges for helping others. Some wrote advice about saying “hi” to a stranger each day, others wrote positive encouragement about looking for the bright side and never being scared to ask for help.
Representatives from Stony Brook’s Counseling and Psychological Services attended on both days reach out to students.
“We are trying to enhance our involvement with campus residents and to do more programs out the center,” Julian Pessier, the interim director of CAPS, said. “We want to make aware as much as possible that we are a place to go.”
Part two of the program was a talk held in the Hendrix Lounge in Roth Quad. The environment of the discussion was very relaxed; there were sandwiches and snacks on tables by the windows and all the couches in the lounge were turned towards each other in a circle.
Pessier started off the conversation by passing out a handout with ways to recognize signs of people who may be struggling, resources on campus and pointers about how being self-aware and recognizing that it is “OK to not be OK.”
“So much can be done for people before they have those [suicidal] thoughts, and that’s to notice the signs of it,” Judy Esposito, interim associate director of CAPS, said. “Knowing these signs could be the difference between knowing if somebody is having a bad day or if somebody is struggling.”
Around 20 students attended the talk event, and a large part of the discussion went to asking CAPS various questions from how to get a friend to come in for help to what students should do if they felt unsatisfied with CAPS.
Esposito said that CAPS tries to help as many students as they can, but because mental health is so unique for each person, it is hard to find a perfect solution for each student. She also said that students do so much by bringing in people that they know are struggling.
Students at the talk spoke about how admitting they had a problem in the first place, whether is was depression, anxiety or stress, was one of the hardest things to do.
“I’ve been going to therapy for 10 years now and it was the scariest thing of my life,” said Dom DiMatteo, a business and economics major at Suffolk Community College. “Especially since I was such a proud egotistical person, it was that much harder, but it was also the best decision I ever made.”
RHA and NRHH plan to grow the event for next year. Until then, they said they hope that the students who did attend the event this year will take what they learned to help other students and break the stigma on mental health.
“Alexander the Great did not build an empire by himself,” DiMatteo said. “Sometimes you have to use people to make yourself the best that you can be.”