The University of New Mexico’s Veteran Resource Center is hosting UNM’s first Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day on Sept. 26.
Sept. is also National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.
More than 41,000 people commit suicide each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015, New Mexico had the fourth-highest suicide rate in the U.S. according to the New Mexico Health Department.
“Suicide is very near and dear to our hearts,” VRC Director Patrick Gallegos said. “It’s the second leading cause of death for students on college campuses, next to substance abuse.”
The upcoming event will have workshops and resource tables for students and faculty throughout the day.
“It’s a taboo thing to talk about, and we want to make it where it’s not taboo,” said Alonzo Maestas, the program coordinator for VRC. “It’s okay to talk about it.”
The idea of these workshops is to address common questions to ask and common ways to care for someone at risk, including “(bringing) education sessions on suicide awareness and prevention to campus,” Gallegos said.
The VRC invited several organizations and departments on campus to host workshops and resource tables including: Agora, SHAC, the Women’s Resource Center and the Office of Career Services.
There will be four workshops running twice a day — one in the morning and then again in the afternoon — to “catch students or faculty who have classes in the morning and catch the ones who have classes in the afternoon,” Maestas said.
“Of these sessions, there is one that’s specific for faculty and staff, one that’s specific for students and one for veterans,” Gallegos said.
Career Services will be leading the faculty and staff workshop, and Agora will be leading the one tailored toward students.
There will also be a self-care workshop taught by the WRC that is open to everyone.
The VRC will be conducting the workshop for veterans.
“I was a mental health specialist in the military, so I kind of saw the impact of suicide in the military,” Gallegos said. “Veteran suicide is twice the rate of the normal population. I think holding these information and awareness trainings will help our students, faculty and staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide to hopefully be able to step in and intervene early on.”
UNM has strong resource centers on campus for people struggling with suicidal thoughts but feels a portion of the student population does not utilize them, Gallegos said.
“I’m hoping to capture some of that,” he said. “I think this will help increase the effectiveness of (resource centers).”
“We are really trying just to help with the stigmas associated with suicide and bring some of the resources to them directly on campus,” Gallegos said.
In the afternoon, a resource fair will be set up in the SUB Plaza.
“For people who go to the workshops and want more on top of that,” Maestas said, “resources will be out there. It’s not just UNM; it’s community-based as well. We are going to be leading them to people who are there for them.”
The VRC is trying to make UNM Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day an annual event that could continue teaching possible life-saving tools to future students, faculty and staff.
Madison Spratto is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.