AU resources help students with depression, suicide awareness and prevention

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Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland

The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Ashland County sponsor the Suicide Prevention & Awareness Annual Walk that is virtual this year due to COVID-19.

Lydia Bice, AU-TV 20 NEWS TALENT AND PRODUCER

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While not every person with depression has suicidal thoughts, those with these thoughts are normally extremely depressed, anxious and suffer from major stress. 

Contemplating suicide is not a sign of weakness, but it is a clear indicator of how much pain someone is going through. There are many traumatic experiences that can spark these feelings and deep depression. 

One of these traumatic experiences could be losing a loved one, which is what happened to  Ashland University sophomore nursing major, Vivian Jones. 

“Suicide prevention is a very important and touchy topic for me,” she said. “When I was 8 years old a member of my family committed suicide at only 35 years old. He didn’t see another way out. This opened my eyes to want to help people and make sure others never feel like this.”

However, trying to keep those around you happy and mentally healthy can take a toll on your own mental health. 

“Sometimes making sure others never feel like this can take a strain on my own mental health,” Jones said. “Once getting to college and realizing that I couldn’t do this all on my own, I sought help at counseling services here. This was one of the best steps in the right direction for my mental health that I ever did. It pointed me to a resource I had forgotten I had and to someone who would listen to my grievances and heavy heart. I am forever grateful for my counselor for opening my eyes to my internal struggles that I needed to work on.”

Ashland University offers free counseling services to all AU students. The university also has a Healthier Mind Happier Life app available at the app store. The app is free and is called Ashland Healthy Mind.

Dr. Oscar McKnight, Associate Dean of Students Director in Psychological Counseling Services here at AU, makes it incredibly easy for students to get in contact with a counselor. 

“Students can contact me personally [email protected] or contact our administrative assistant, Colleen Hord, at [email protected] to schedule a meeting time,” he said. “Students can also contact the Health Center by emailing Tina Oswalt, at [email protected] We have three full time licensed mental health professionals, Shannon Kahle, Richard Fajardo, and myself, as well as a full time nurse practitioner, Sarah Taylor.”

Dr. McKnight also stresses the importance of dedicating the month of September to Suicide Awareness.   

In honor of suicide prevention month, this list titled “Reasons to Stay” has been making its way across social media. (Submitted by: Lydia Bice)

“It provides awareness of a severe problem often neglected by the public; most people avoid thinking of such adverse and heartbreaking events,” he said. “However, suicidal thoughts or behavior can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or economic background. Every year too many people die by suicide, leaving grieving family and friends to cope with the tragedy of loss.”

According to verywellmind.com, a recent study found more than 67,000 college students from more than 100 institutions, one in five students have had thoughts of suicide, with 9% making an attempt and nearly 20% reporting self-injury.

“Over a thousand college students die by suicide each year, and according to National data, approximately 12% of college students report some form of suicidal ideation,” McKnight explained.

Stressful situations like moving to college and making transitions can also spark this severe depression and lead to those forms of suicidal ideation Dr. McKnight mentioned. Junior Biology Pre-Physician’s Assistant major Jordan Wasko felt this severe depression form her freshman year on campus. 

“Moving to college can already be hard, but when life altering moments occur during that transition, things start to become impossible,” she said. “Within one month of my freshman year, I lost my grandma, got sick with mono and was sexually assaulted. Dealing with these things and underlying emotions did not come easy to me, and I felt my depression form and my anxiety deepen.”

However, the counseling services on campus have impacted many lives for the better, including Wasko. These services, along with the help of close friends and a community, pulled her through her dark times. 

“It was hard to come to terms with everything going on, and passing my attacker everyday on my way to class worsened that. After my first semester, I knew I needed more help than I could give myself,” she said. “I started speaking to Dr. Oscar McKnight, who is a part of Ashland’s counseling services. He helped me understand what was going on, how I can live with it, and who I am as a person. I appreciate the kindness, help and relief I received for Dr. McKnight, but there was more than just him on my side. My sorority, Delta Zeta, is what got me through it. Having the love and support of every single girl, made the process just a little easier. Without these two aspects of Ashland University, I would not be here today.”

For emotional wellness resources at AU, visit: https://www.ashland.edu/student-affairs/health-safety-title-ix/campus-wellness/emotional-wellness-resources

For those interested in raising awareness for this issue, register for the Suicide Prevention & Awareness Virtual Walk, sponsored by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Ashland County. Since the walk will be virtual, all who register can walk, run or jog the one mile independently or with friends (social distanced). The actual “walk” date is September 27, but the event is open from September 21-27. To register, visit: https://www.ashlandmhrb.org/get-involved/suicide-prevention-coalition/suicide-prevention-awareness-walk