Members of the Fairfield University community distributed orange bracelets to students heading out of the Daniel and Grace Tully Dining Commons to their next destinations. On Tuesday, March 26, scenes like this occurred across Fairfield’s slightly more orange campus as a result of the school’s Suicide Prevention Day initiative.
Behind a table filled with various pamphlets stickers, a video about awkward silences played on a screen in the background. Student-made notes on orange paper used the hashtag #imhere as part of their messages, which filled two nearby walls.
Counseling and Psychological Services joined with Campus Ministry, Fairfield University Student Association and the Student Health Center to organize these information tables. With locations next to Einstein Bros. Bagels, at the bottom entrance of the Tully Dining Commons and in the front foyer of the Dimenna-Nyselius Library, these stations enthusiastically distributed orange bracelets with the message #imhere in order to convey their message about suicide prevention.
“I’m wearing mine because it says I’m here and I want all my friends and everyone on this campus to know that I’m here for them if anyone needs anything,” said Mary Eliseo ‘19, one of the many students who actively participated as part of this campaign.
Sophomore Kevin Kryzwick expressed similar motivation behind his choice to wear the bracelets.
“I think sometimes it’s hard for someone to approach you and talk about their mental health, but there’s a clear sign that you’re there to listen,” said Kryzwick, who helped work the table next to Einstein’s.
These tables around campus centered around the same slogan which was written on the hundreds of bracelets distributed: #imhere.
The initiative both informed students of the importance of suicide awareness and encouraged them to continue to spread this awareness on their own.
Junior Lauren Paidas, an advocate of mental health on campus, helped coordinate this initiative with Counseling and Psychological Services. Paidas further explained the importance of Tuesday’s event.
“I try to be open about it [mental health] because one, I’m comfortable sharing my story, but then also because I hope to give other people the realization that, ‘Okay, I’m not alone if some else is struggling.’”
Paidas further explained the point at which she would consider the initiative to be a success; “if someone else who doesn’t struggle realizes that there are a lot people struggling, especially on college campus.”
The videos which played at each of the three tables also shared a slightly more specific theme: seize the awkward.
Mark Celano, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services, stressed the campaign’s emphasis on this idea on breaking the stigma about mental health by taking advantage of its various awkward interactions.
Celano further explained how by trying to promote greater social connection, the #imhere campaign hoped to offer one at least one way for untrained people to help others who may be feeling suicidal.
“Increasing social connections actually reduces the incidence of suicide,” explained Celano.
This empowerment of ordinary students as potential helpers in suicide prevention explained the campaign’s focus on the color orange.
“We hear over and over again from students who are at risk for suicide or suicidal behavior that they feel very alone and they don’t have anybody to talk to,” said Campus Minister Katie Byrnes, “so the idea is to have the whole campus go orange today, so that students can see there are a lot of people to talk to and there are a lot of people here.”
The wristbands distributed at the tables of Tuesday’s event will serve as physical reminders of this campus-wide effort to remind students that they are never alone.