Program will attempt to prevent suicide with interactive resources

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Nov. 20, 2006 


It's hard to fight statistics that say suicide is the No. 2 killer of college students.

But in an effort to raise awareness and combat the stigmas of stress, depression and suicide, mtvU and the Jed Foundation have partnered to launch a program called "Half of Us" to reduce student suicide rates, fight mental health misconceptions on college campuses and connect students and their friends to the help they need. The program's name, "Half of Us," comes from research indicating that nearly half of all college students have said they have felt so depressed at some point they could not function.

The Jed Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by Phil and Donna Satow after their son, Jed, killed himself during his sophomore year of college. His death shocked family and friends, who were not aware that Jed's life was in imminent danger. The Jed Foundation works to educate college campuses about the importance of suicide prevention and good mental health.

Jason Rzepka, mtvU communications manager, said the issues of suicide prevention and stress critically affect lots of colleges, and the negative connotations associated with mental instability prevent students from seeking help.

"I'm happy that mtvU is being used as a platform for social change and a connection to resources," Rzepka said. "Every instance of someone committing suicide touches people across the range, and I'm personally proud to participate. 'Half of Us' addresses one of the first steps for friends and families -- to reach out."

MtvU opened to serve as a safe space for students to discuss their feelings or seek help for a friend. The Web site offers school-specific resources and an anonymous screening tool for emotional disorders. The TV station is airing public service announcements that profile students who have contemplated suicide.

Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the IU Health Center, said students need to inform themselves about the signs of depression and suicidal risk in the same way they would for an imminent heart attack or stroke.

Left untreated, Stockton said, depression robs students of their abilities to interact within their social and academic environments, to be productive and to enjoy themselves. Research has demonstrated that a combination of medicine and psychotherapy is the best treatment for depression of moderate and greater severity, she said. Milder forms of depression usually respond to either counseling or medicine alone.

Stockton said the best way to stay informed is to learn how to respond to people who might be giving subtle or not-so-subtle indications that they are contemplating suicide. When appropriate help is available and students know about it, she said, most students learn other coping strategies. The quickest way to solve unnecessary suffering is to take steps to solve it early, which she said students can do on campus at Counseling and Psychological Services.


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