I spoke at NC State following ten deaths on campus this semester from multiple causes. That’s a huge amount of loss for the students and faculty to deal with. Causes of death included suicides, overdose deaths, natural causes, and an accident.
My heart hurt for both the students and staff and my focus was to acknowledge the hurt and grief, empower both students and faculty with the tools to be part of the solution, and then the coping skills to manage painful and difficult emotions. “How to help a friend” is always a big theme that points to how compassionate people are. They want to help and we need them to.
This program started with two presentations, one to students the night before that was streamed to parents and focused on suicide prevention and included healthy grieving, coping skills, and how to help a friend. And then a customized half-day university suicide prevention faculty training the next day.
The students offered their full rapt attention
The students were courteous, curious, and ready to learn. The driving inspiration is “how can I help my friends.” This part of the program was streamed to parents who had been understandably concerned.
Below is one of the panels of the “I struggle with…” game
Faculty University suicide prevention training
I met a caring staff and we had a robust turnout of compassionate faculty members who were available for the training. This was scheduled the day following the student presentation.
In this process of postvention (after suicidal deaths), what I feel is most important is that no one is rushed through the grieving process and that everyone knows their role as part of the solution.
That means students, faculty, and parents all have a part in helping prevent future deaths as best we can.
We can’t control everything. But we can control how we react, listen and be there in a way that is helpful and not shaming.
We can’t change that deaths have happened
But we can change how we respond to the ones that have and grow from that experience in the memories of those we’ve lost. That includes helping ourselves, helping others, and being part of a change culture that includes coping, connecting, and giving back in a community way.
That’s the approach that inspires post-traumatic growth.
“One thing I learned…” index cards from students
I ask my audience to share one thing they learned. And my selfish reasons for this are to balance out the crash I feel after having given these presentations. I did, after all, lose a son to suicide as a result of addiction and depression. This was initially a way to fill myself back up and take a piece of the audience with me. And it works. What’s more, it gives me a window into what each member of the audience takes away. I have thousands of these now. And I save every precious one of them. 🙂
More “one thing I learned….” index cards from students.
More pictures from my first trip to NC State University.
NC State University Student Suicide Prevention Program Details
This will be followed by consulting on priorities, and then a virtual parent presentation. The relationship is ongoing. Details of the first two programs are below.
Student Topic: Diary of a Broken Mind: A mother’s story
Time: 1-1.25 hours, Tuesday, March 21 at 7 pm, Talley Student Center on NC State campus
Description: After Anne Moss tried to find help for her son, Charles, a creative genius and rap artist, he met heroin, a love/hate relationship that ended with his suicide on June 5, 2015. This presentation focuses on the story of how the funniest, most popular kid in school suffered from depression and became addicted to heroin and how Anne Moss found healing after the most devastating loss of her life.
- How we can best support one another
- Signs of suicide, how to listen, what to say and do
- Healthy vs. unhealthy coping strategies for healing
- How to find hope after a devastating loss
This event will emphasize healthy coping and grieving while asking university students to look out and be there for one another and how they can put their grief into action. Counselors will be on site for students who want to talk.
Suicide Prevention Training for University Faculty and Support Personnel
Centennial Campus for the morning of Wednesday, March 22nd for the 3.5-hour faculty/staff training session (9-12:30). Training session holds ~100 in-person attendees.
Time: 3.5 hours or half day
Faculty/Staff Topic: Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Postvention Training for Universities
Description: Participants will have the opportunity to work through scenarios and discussions to strengthen their ability to gain insight, tools, and resources to work through one of the most difficult topics those working with students face. This empowers educators to speak on an uncomfortable topic. While it focuses on students, the strategies for adults are similar. This 3.5-hour training will focus in three parts on:
Part I – Prevention
- The three pillars of creating a suicide prevention culture
- Signs to look for in young adults and adults (because faculty are important, too). What to look for in artwork, on social media sites, and in papers kids write.
- Going upstream to prevent students from getting to crisis. A review of case studies of how educators have embedded social-emotional learning concepts (life skills) into their curriculum and how that helps kids build resilience and coping skills.
- Creating a suicide-safe environment so we put more time between thought and action (means restrictions such as breakaway closet rods)
Part II – Intervention
- What to say, what to do, scripts, and role play on how to respond.
- How to encourage students over 18 to talk to their parents if appropriate, giving them agency in the process so they feel more grounded in their own care.
- Tools for brief screenings to measure who is at risk.
Part III- Postvention
- The top errors most administrators make after a school suicide can put other vulnerable students at risk.
- How to support staff and students in their grief after the suicide of a teacher or student.
- What to do and say to the parent of a deceased child.
- What educators can say to students who accuse teachers of holding back or lying when the parent has asked that the cause of death not be disclosed?
- How to prevent contagion and cohort suicide.
- Memorial guidelines and creating a commemoration policy.
Part IV – Resources
Get the mental health and suicide prevention speaker/trainer overview for schools and universities
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