The group set up a tent near Zimmerman library on Wednesday and passed out pieces of paper that encouraged students to write out past or current experiences, using the Twitter hashtag #ShareTheWeight. The papers were then hung around the tent for other students to read. The idea behind the campaign is to promote an open discussion about suicide, even through social media.
“We want people to share the weight of their struggles with each other,” said Jeremy Jaramillo, associate director for Agora.
When issues are shared, others can see the grief and pain as well as the joy, he said.
April and October are typically high-volume months for suicides and suicide attempts. Jaramillo said he believes this may be the time when students are receiving grades from midterms and may be worried about their success for the rest of the semester.
“We’re trying to get people to share the reasons, or the ways that have helped others in times of need or how they’ve been helped themselves,” Jaramillo said. “We want to encourage a campus culture that cares for each other.”
Some of the papers that students wrote on confessed times of sexual abuse or times of need and how others lent out a helping hand.
The event attempted to de-stigmatize reaching out for help, he said. In effect, this action turns out to be suicide prevention.
In response to the increase of calls, Agora is having a “Question, Persuade, Refer,” or QPR certification session Thursday evening, he said. Helping people understand what to look for when talking to a friend can help prevent a life-threatening situation.
“We look for attempted suicide before, we’re looking for depression, change in eating habits, weight loss or gain and loss of interest in activities — that includes school,” he said.
All of these can be early signs that may result in thoughts of suicide, and when others are aware of them, these events can be avoided, he said.
Jenn Brown, an outreach coordinator for Agora, said people age 24 and younger are at the highest risk for suicides.
Students often drop out of school for reasons other than the difficulty of the course work, she said. There can be times when something in their personal life affects them.
With New Mexico being the poorest state in the nation, financial issues can also be a factor in depression, a key indicator of mental health, she said. The state is third in the country for death by suicides.
The more suicides are talked about, the less stigmatized the issue becomes, and that’s why outreach is so important, Brown said.
“Education is the biggest preventative method we can take in the community,” she said.
Mackenzie May, a senior psychology major, said she really likes the idea.
“I think (the project) helps people feel a little less alone. A lot of times when they are experiencing negative feelings, it’s only them that feel it,” May said.
The project shows that everyone struggles sometimes, she said.
Colbie May, a freshman psychology major, said she also approves of the project.
A lot of times people don’t want to talk about suicide, but by providing an outlet, people will feel more comfortable about the topic, she said.