Over fifty students gathered around the Stag Statue at Fairfield University on the evening of Thursday, March 25 as part of the #HopeLivesHere suicide awareness and prevention campaign. 

Staff from Campus Ministry, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Student Health Center organized this event, leading a candlelight vigil in honor of those who lost their lives to suicide.

“Tonight is about reminding people that there is hope, that they matter, and that we are with them,” said Mark Celano PhD, a psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.  

Campus Minister Katie Brynes began the evening with prayer. With Celano speaking next on the importance of this vigil, and the initiative in general.

Suicide remains the tenth leading cause of death worldwide, leaving about 800,000 victims annually, and the second leading cause of death amongst those 15-24 years old.  

Celano spoke about how the feeling of hopelessness contributes more to suicide than any other factor.  He also emphasized how just by being there for somebody, a person can help alleviate this feeling.   

Students in attendance received green wristbands that say “Fairfield U Cares” and “#HopeLivesHere”.  

These wristbands, just like the green ribbons tied around the trees in the center of campus, serve as a reminder that people struggling with depressive or suicidal thoughts are not alone.

Melina Calle, a Post-Doctoral Fellow from Counseling and Psychological Services,  concluded the event by reading the names of victims that attendees asked to be recognized.  One of those victims remembered was Julia Ryder ‘13, who took her life while on-campus during her sophomore year.  

The #HopeLivesHere initiative is funded by the Julia Ryder Sill Fund.

Organizers of the vigil initially wanted to create a more interactive event with tabling and mental health screenings, but the socially-distanced vigil served as the safer, more manageable option. 

Even so, a free QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) session occurred over Zoom on March 24 where students, staff and faculty experienced community-based training on how to spot warning signs of suicide and how to appropriately intervene.  

Talk about death, hopelessness, unbearable pain or feeling like a burden serve as some of the many warning signs of suicide. Others include increased alcohol and drug use, talk about feeling trapped, visiting or calling others to overtly or indirectly say goodbye, and giving things away, especially valuable or cherished belongings.   

Since people contemplating do not always profess their intentions, recognizing such signs and appropriately connecting these people to mental health resources possesses immeasurable importance.  

The #HopeLivesHere initiative offers the following reminder to students: “If you are feeling hopeless, helpless or thinking of suicide, get help. If you are concerned about a friend, care enough to get that student help. Tell them you’re there for them.” 

Both Counseling & Psychological Services and Campus Ministry are confidential resources, and are of no charge to students

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