According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people commit suicide every year (one death every 40 seconds), and 1,000 of these occur on college campuses. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-aged students, and more than half of college students have had suicidal thoughts. On Monday, March 26, Fairfield University Student Association, Counseling & Psychological Services, Campus Ministry, Collegiate Health Service Corp. and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are working together to raise awareness and provide help to anyone who may need it by organizing Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day.

Susan Birge, Assistant Vice President and Director of Counseling & Psychological Services, detailed Fairfield University’s suicide awareness and prevention initiative called #YouMatter. This initiative is sponsored by the Julia Ryder Sill Fund. Sill ‘13, was a student at Fairfield University who took her life on campus during her sophomore year. On March 26, Birge explained that “the University community will highlight the value of every life and dedicate themselves to saving lives.”

On Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day, there will be multiple opportunities to learn more about this initiative, as well as receive support, learn about the warning signs of suicide, and help peers who are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be information tables in The Tully, outside Einstein Bagels and at the library that will each have different activities available to students. The 12:10 p.m. Mass in Egan Chapel will be dedicated to those who struggle with depression, as well as those who have taken their own lives.

Students are encouraged to wear yellow and #YouMatter bracelets to show support. Campus will be decorated with yellow ribbons and balloons in an attempt to make students aware of the cause.

Molly Strang ‘18, Vice President of FUSA, explained, “We want it to be a huge thing; we want to bring attention to suicide and how we can work towards preventing it.”

Besides participating in Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day, other steps can be taken in an effort to decrease suicide and depression rates everyday. Birge elaborated, “Know the signs of depression and suicide and encourage those who are going through a tough time to use Counseling & Psychological Services. If you’re worried about someone, get them to help.” Warning signs of suicidal feelings include talking about death, suicide and feeling hopeless or trapped, increased use of alcohol or drugs, visiting or calling people unexpectedly to say goodbye and giving away valuable possessions.

Zoë Smith ‘20 said, “I think it’s very important that we have Suicide Awareness Day because it’s a huge issue that affects a lot of people and we need to form awareness about it. It’s something that people so often sweep under the rug, but we need to bring attention to it.”

Both Counseling & Psychological Services and Campus Ministry are free of charge and confidential. Email or call 203-254-400 ext 2146 to reach Counseling & Psychological Services.

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