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Friday, November 28, 2014

UNM mulls suicide protocol

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos, director of UNM’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Resource Center, talks about L.O.V.E., stands for Listen, Observe, Validate and Engage, at the SUB on Monday.

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Suicide is a difficult but necessary subject to discuss, and one that has become a topic of concern on campus.

According to the national Suicide Prevention Resource Center website, about seven out of every 100,000 college students will commit suicide before graduation.

UNM’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Resource Center has partnered with several organizations to attempt to bring that statistic down.

The LGBTQ Resource Center, AGORA Crisis Center, the Dean of Students Office, Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), Student Affairs, Residence Life, American Indian Student Services, Department of Health and Staff Council have all teamed up for the third year to present Caring @ Every Connection. Together, the group’s members are working to establish a suicide protocol on campus.

Frankie Flores, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ Resource Center, said he became involved in the project two years ago as part of the initial think tank.

“We are all trying to come up with a cohesive plan for when students are in distress,” Flores said. “We have staff, faculty and students who have a protocol that helps students — whether it’s a case of depression, or suicidal thoughts, or the actual act of suicide. We’ve had two particular instances where this system has worked and saved lives.”

The protocol is part of a three-year grant awarded to the UNM LGBTQ Resource Center by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos, director of the LGBTQ center, said she wants to save students’ lives.

“What do we need to focus on for students on campus? Basically, some students felt like they were not cared for at all,” she said. “We want a better campus climate so that students feel welcomed everywhere they go.”

Lisa Lindquist, a student affairs specialist, stressed the program’s importance. Lindquist is tasked with notifying families of students who die on campus. She said any is too many when it comes to student suicide.

Editor’s note, Feb. 11, 2014, 11:01 a.m.: This article was edited to fix an error in reporting. The article inaccurately stated that 1,800 students were considered at-risk.l

There are 29,000 people enrolled at UNM, and of that number, only 1,800 come in for counseling services in an academic year, said Stephanie McIver, the director of counseling at SHAC.

“My very first day that I started, we had a suicide,” she said. “I started collecting data and I found (that) in the last 10 years we’ve had 21 suicides here at UNM.”

Silva-Bañuelos said the two most important concepts when working with anyone who is feeling suicidal are tolerance and L.O.V.E., which stands for Listen, Observe, Validate and Engage. This is the pay-it-forward motto of the LGBTQ Center and an important idea when talking about suicide, she said.

“There is something that the LGBTQ community has, and it’s a concept of family — unconditional love,” she said.

If you need to talk to someone please call:
Frankie Flores at (505) 277-LGBT (5428)
AGORA hotline: 1-866-HELP-1-NM