Content warning: Suicide, suicide contemplation
Mizzou’s Student Suicide Prevention Coalition launched an outstanding campaign #WhatILiveFor, in which students and community members were encouraged to share love, motivation and their stories during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-11).
MSSPC’s campaign led to influx of positive messages and real stories from students all over campus.
This is a great example of how social media can be used to have an impact. Most of our feeds are filled with the highs: vacations, job promotions, relationship milestones, etc. Of course, those events are important and worth sharing. However, these images and captions can display a false reality of what our lives are actually like. We are the smiles, friends and laughs. But we are also the lonely, quiet and sad moments. Although those moments aren’t as glamorous, they’re equally important in making us human and real.
The MSSPC steering committee works all year to put on events, like days of remembrance for suicide victims, as well as fundraising and awareness efforts to connect Mizzou students to suicide prevention resources. The founders are also in the process of crowd-funding a documentary called “Wake Up: Let’s End the Stigma” to pay tribute to their friend Ryan who lost his life to suicide.
Suicide prevention coalitions and organizations have been emerging at colleges throughout the United States, as students decide to take matters into their own hands. 78 percent of students report having mental health issues in the last year, according to a study by the National Union of Students. However, over half never seek treatment. This may be due to a lack of knowledge and available resources, as well as the negative stigma attached to mental health disorders.
Interested in starting a suicide prevention organization on your campus? Contact MSSPC for more information.
I asked MSSPC steering committee member Tess Rusbarsky about her experience with this organization.
Q: Why did you choose to get involved in MSSPC?
A: This organization first caught my attention after my best friend’s brother, someone who I considered to be my own big brother, took his life on October 7, 2014. Not long after that heartache, I found out about MSSPC and followed them on every network of social media in order to stay updated on suicide awareness events they were holding, and most importantly, when the next round of applications would be available. After patiently waiting, applications came out, and I was blessed to be chosen to be a part of the steering committee for the 2016 calendar year. I couldn’t wait to start making a difference on Mizzou’s campus. Unfortunately, on February 9, 2016, I received word that someone who I considered to be one of my best friends in high school – the most lovable person you could have known – had committed suicide early that morning. Heartbroken, confused, but not defeated, my passion and determination to spread suicide awareness grew stronger than ever before. I was so thankful to be a part of MSSPC at the time of this tragedy. My passion for suicide awareness to grow every single day, and I could not be more proud to be a part of this organization alongside the other 36 selfless members.
Q: What different things does SSPC do to raise awareness?
A: While MSSPC uses profit shares, and canning outside businesses like many other organizations here at Mizzou use to fundraise money, we do our best to be unique, and pertain to the campus’ student body as well. For example, before I was a member of MSSPC, the organization put together a butterfly releasing event on The Quad, in honor of suicide prevention and awareness. Not only did it make for really neat photographs – but more importantly, the concept was beautiful, and I know it gave hope to so many people who have lost someone to suicide. I know I may sound biased, but I truly believe that event was one of the most inspiring of all events that I have witnessed at Mizzou.
Q: What was the campaign #WhatILiveFor all about, and how do you think it made a difference?
A: The campaign #WhatILiveFor was sort of a spin-off of the “Before I Die” chalkboards. The idea was to give people little reminders that there is so much to live for. Whether it’s your family or Chipotle, big or small, positive vibes can go a long way. The campaign was an absolute success, and I get emotional just thinking about the turn out of people who made a post, and supported us during National Suicide Awareness Week.
Q: What would you say to someone who has been struggling with suicidal thoughts?
A: How I would handle a situation if someone approached me with suicidal thoughts is something I’m still working on myself. Overall, I think an important thing to do is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to prompt a scary question, especially if someone has brought up the subject on their own. That means they want to talk about it, they trust you with the subject, and they need someone to listen to them. The most important thing is just to listen. You might not understand what they’re going through, or you might understand completely. Keep an open mind when listening, and encourage them to receive help, whether it’s from you, their parents, or a health professional – it doesn’t matter. Show them that they are loved, and that life has so much to live for.
For a daily dose of inspiration and happiness, you can follow MSSPC along @MizzouSSPC on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.