Marquette Wire

Vigil held to discuss mental health, suicide

Photo by Photo by Meredith Gillespie // meredith.gillespie@marquette.edu

Photo by Photo by Meredith Gillespie // meredith.gillespie@marquette.edu

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A vigil held in St. Joan of Arc Chapel last week in remembrance of lives lost to suicide and to raise awareness for mental health issues left people hopeful after a stellar turnout.

Active Minds, a nonprofit that focuses on mental health awareness, hosted the event and is working on Marquette’s campus to start conversations about mental health issues, Nick Jenkins, an Active Minds advisor and member of the counseling center, said.

Vice president for student affairs Xavier Cole said it was encouraging to see a large crowd of about 40 students attend an event to discuss mental health and suicide.

“Seeing this crowd of students having conversations with each other about what can be such a private issue is a joyous thing,” Cole said.

Cole said in his previous experience as assistant vice president of student development at Washington College, he dealt mostly with students in crisis situations. Cole described a student that he worked with who had recently been diagnosed as bipolar.

“It was a hard thing for the student to accept and a hard thing for those around him to see his ups and downs,” Cole said. “We had to hospitalize the student, which was a very difficult decision, because at that age, you start college and you think that your life is on a concrete track.”

When the family expressed concern that their son might not graduate on time, Cole said that mental health issues are far more important than academic concerns.

“There is no track that you have to stay on,” Cole said. “There is the path that is right for you. I told the student that when graduation happens, it will be that much more rich and joyful because you overcame something and you still made your goals.”

Active Minds aims to help students become more comfortable both with the idea of mental health and discussing it.

“The whole focus of Active Minds is opening up the concept that we all have mental health issues,” Jenkins said. “We have to challenge the stigma of holding back from talking about these issues.”

Cole stressed the importance of speaking up to others about someone who may be in trouble.

“If a friend shows warning signs of a mental health issue or thoughts of suicide, students must be willing to do anything to get them the help that they need,” Cole said. “Even if they tell you that they’ll never be your friend again, that they’ll hate you if you do something to draw attention to their suffering, you know when they’re in over their head. Know that the person’s life is worth anything. When they’re in a (better mental state), they’ll know the love that you have for them.”

At the end of the event, attendees were invited to light candles in honor and remembrance of lives lost to suicide.

The timing of the event was intentional, as it coincided with the end of suicide awareness month, Michelle Frederick, an Active Minds member and junior in the College of Business Administration, said.

“Last year, we did Send Silence Packing, which was a big elaborate event,” Frederick said.

Send Silence Packing was an exhibit of over a thousand backpacks placed around campus representing the amount of college students who die by suicide each year.

“This year, we wanted a more intimate experience that was more faith-driven,” Frederick said.

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