CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Suicide Awareness Focuses on Everyone (S.A.F.E.) program celebrated its first year of educating, raising awareness and reducing the stigmas related to suicide and mental health with a visual representation of the support that is offered at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
September is Suicide Awareness Month and to commemorate the end of the month, S.A.F.E. program’s participants wrote more than 1600 messages of love and hope on small pieces of paper which were linked across the campus in a chain that stretched from the University’s Anchor Statue beside the University Center and ended in the Dungan Health Center. This handcrafted chain was a visual representation of the support Island University students, faculty and staff have for Island University students struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I’m excited that it is the S.A.F.E program’s first anniversary, and to see how far our messages of encouragement stretched across campus,” said Dr. Pamela Greene, Assistant Professor of Nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) and PI on the S.A.F.E grant. “We want to bring hope so that our students know they are not alone; we don’t want anyone to struggle in silence.”
Since 2016, the CONHS, in partnership with the University Counseling Center, has worked to increase the awareness of good mental health habits thanks to a $260,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Since the establishment of the S.A.F.E program, more than 1,500 faculty, staff and students have participated in on-campus trainings and obtained resources needed to recognize when someone is in need of help.
“I want to say thank you to all the people who participated,” said Ana Salazar, Case Manager at the University Counseling Center. “We want to raise awareness and instill hope for our students. We want to let them know that people care and that there are resources available.”
According to Dr. Greene, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-aged people and has become an increasingly serious issue.
“It can be hard to go to the counseling center and ask for help if you are in distress,” said Greene, “With S.A.F.E, we want others to be able to recognize and assist someone in getting help.”
Through the S.A.F.E program, more than 550 students and 120 staff and faculty have taken the “At Risk” online training. In addition, 693 students have participated in the “Signs of Suicide (SOS)” live training.
“We are not training people to be therapists or counselors,” Greene said. “What we do is help people recognize when a person is in distress and then identify the steps needed to help that person get where they can get professional help.”
S.A.F.E encourages early intervention through the University Counseling Center’s many free resources.
“We want to promote the services that are available on campus,” said Lindsey Beat, Graduate Assistant for the S.A.F.E program at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “Students need to know that they have these available whenever they need them.”