“Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses.” – The Real Truth About Suicide

 “This is something I cannot sit still with.” – Bridgette Bixler, WSU ’18

In accordance with Suicide Prevention Week, Bridgette Bixler, a WSU junior, and Lynda Brzezinski, a WSU counselor, led a discussion on campus about mental illnesses, especially depression and anxiety, and their link with suicide rates.

During the discussion, Bridgette shared the story of her brother. He was a freshman at UW-Lacrosse when he took his own life.

As Bridgette shared her personal experience with suicide, she asked us two questions:

  1. What could bystanders have done to prevent this from happening?
  2. What can we integrate now to prevent this from happening in the future?

These questions led us into a discussion where we came up with a list of ways to be a helpful bystander.

“We need to educate people so that they know how to recognize the symptoms.” – Bridgette Bixler, WSU ’18

The first way to help a friend is to probe and ask questions. Asking questions like, “Do you have a plan?” and “Have you ever attempted before?” can help you to gather more information and help your friend better. These questions are never easy to ask someone as we fear the answer they may give. However, I love Bridgette’s response to the fear and hesitation we have in asking these hard questions, “Be brave…Do it afraid…A life is worth it.”

“I would rather talk about it until I am blue in the face if that’s what it takes to save a life.” – Bridgette Bixler, WSU ’18 

Secondly, seek resources. There are many resources on campus that are more than willing to help if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or is struggling with a mental illness such as depression. If you are experiencing a crisis, there is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that you can call: 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255). In the case that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

“You never know who is being serious about it.” -The Real Truth About Suicide

An additional resource that Bridgette and Lynda made sure to point out was the Self-Assessment Quiz on the Counseling and Wellness webpage. If you are or someone you know is having a mental health problem, this is a great resource to try because it pertains to each person individually. The quiz ends with a completely anonymous dialogue with a WSU counselor. For more information about how to help a friend who might be struggling with a mental health problem, visit http://www.winona.edu/counselingservices/friend.asp.

“There is always help.” – Lynda Brzezinski, WSU Counselor

In this kind of situation, be sure to get help from a third party. Whether it is a professor, WSU counselor, or any other adult, make sure someone else knows what is going on.

“2 out of 3 students who suffer from depression never get help.” – The Mental Health Institute

Another way to help is to take yourself or your friend to counseling services. WSU Counseling Services is open Monday through Friday, 8am – 4:30pm and it is FREE for students to attend counseling sessions on campus. If your friend is feeling hesitant about going to a counseling session, remind them that WSU allows friends to come with you to your first counseling session. You can schedule your appointment here.

“36% of WSU students have been diagnosed with a mental illness (usually with anxiety or depression).” – Lynda Brzezinski, WSU Counselor

These are not just statistics, these are our friends. These are the people sitting next to us in class. These are the people standing behind us in the lunch line. The truth is that suicide is real. The truth is that we are approaching a time when almost everyone on campus could probably name at least one person that has committed or attempted suicide. The truth is that we cannot ignore this reality. Instead, we need to prepare ourselves and inform those around us how to be an active bystander.

“1,100 students die every year due to suicide.” – The Mental Health Institute

Suicide, depression, and anxiety are all too common among college-aged students. This epidemic, as Lyndra Brzezinski explained it, is spreading all across our nation. It’s no secret that something needs to be done.

“What can we do to help the people that can’t help themselves? Because they are valued too.” – Bridgette Bixler, WSU ’18

Will you be the one to be an active bystander? Will you be the friend willing to ask the hard questions? Will you do it afraid? Will you be the reason someone chooses life over death?

See the potential in those around you as well as the potential within yourself today! We were all created with a purpose, for a greater purpose. Fellow Warriors, you have incredible value. Now, I challenge you to go out and be the reason someone recognizes the astonishing value they possess.